Ten Inconvenient Truths About Water - #10


Source: Visual Economics

Americans have the largest water footprints in the world. (For those of you who haven’t heard the news, see What’s Your Water Footprint?) We consume, on average, more than 600,000 gallons per person annually through the foods we eat (think steak, 343 gallons per serving), beverages we drink (that steaming hot latte that you and I can’t seem to do without required about 37 gallons of Brazilian water to produce), products we use (yes, the laptop I’m typing on required some 10,000-odd gallons of water to manufacture), and services we hire (electricity, for example, which in the average U.S. home translates to roughly 750 gallons of water daily). To put this in perspective, global average per capita water use is half that of the average American consumer; per capita use in China less than one-third.  The four most important factors directly determining a country’s water footprint are: volume of consumption (related to gross national income); consumption pattern (e.g. high versus low meat consumption); climate (growth conditions); and agricultural practice (water use efficiency)[1].  The U.S. has a high water footprint primarily due to high per capita meat consumption and high consumption of industrial products.  In contrast, some poorer areas of the world have high water consumption due instead to low crop yields and high evapotranspiration.  Americans, on average, eat more than 1,000 pounds annually – or more than 8 times my body weight (yikes!) of foods derived from animals—meat, dairy and fish.  In my naïveté, I thought being the “Leaders of the Free World” meant something entirely different.  We need to get it together: Water. Save it. (Check out your own water footprint with calculators from Water Footprint Network and National Geographic Society.)

[1]  www.waterfootprint.org/Reports/Report11.pdf

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