Thinking about calculating my water footprint took me immediately to the internet where there are numerous sites in which you can enter some data about your lifestyle like how many miles you drive in a day or how cool you keep your home during the summer. After putting your entire life into one of these simple calculators, they spit out a number for you to interpret. In my case, the site I used to calculate my current water footprint states that I personally use 1,059.35 gallons per day. On the larger scale, I put in data regarding where I lived, in the dorms, and also I figured in my two roommates and their water behaviors. The three of us as a “household” use about 4,237 gallons per day. Wow, what a number! It was almost embarrassing for me to reach that end result on the calculator because I know how unsustainable it really is. There are so many small tasks throughout the day I do that require water like filling up my water bottle or washing my face in the morning when I wake up, menial tasks that use more water than I realize. I do not really think about the water I am using to complete these tasks because I always have that access to fresh water by just turning on the sink. I do not know where it comes from and I will say with regret that I do not really consider it because it is always just there, my basic right, why would I think more of it? But it is this exact ignorance that puts my water consumption so high in the number of gallons I use everyday. And there is also the water I use indirectly by consuming food like vegetables, fruit and occasionally some meat products that use huge amounts of water for growth and transportation to markets, or in my case the dining hall. My water consumption is driven exceptionally higher due to food consumption, especially when it isn’t locally grown.
I think that every person should take the time to calculate their water footprint because knowing the amount of water I consume per day and also the amount my whole household consumes has led me to start practicing little behaviors I know can bring that number down like taking shorter showers and turning off the water when I brush my teeth. And this is before I even analyze the full situation for what it is worth and put into effect the real large-scale sustainability measure like considering the use of a greywater harvesting system. Now, here at school that would be extremely difficult to implement because I love in dorms owned by the school, but when I own my own home it is definitely the infrastructure I am aiming for to save water. A greywater harvesting system would allow me to collect the water I use in my home for washing dishes and clothes and the water I shower in or wash my hands and face in. Why not use it to flush my toilets or water my garden or lawn? I do not need 100% fresh water for these activities so why should I waste the energy of obtaining fresh water from a plant to just flush a toilet, dirty things go into it so the water can start out not completely clean and save some energy.
According to peoplepoweredmachines.wordpress.com, “30% of the water used on the East Coast of the U.S. goes towards the watering of lawns. A single golf course in Tampa, Florida uses 178,800 gallons of water every day, enough to meet the daily water needs of over 2,200 people.”
Something to take into consideration is the number of calculators there are available on the internet to use. Each one is slightly different than the others and will produce different results for the same person. One might measure your water consumption in kilograms per year rather than gallons. Others are based off of the amount of time it will measure you over, most focus on a one year time period so your number will be quite high compared to those that focus on your consumption in just a single day. They might ask different questions pertaining to what you eat, the difference between being a vegetarian or not is actually quite large, a couple hundred gallons a day and thousands in a single year. I chose to use a calculator that gave me my water consumption in gallons per day, because I thought that would be easiest for me to understand. You must also consider the fact that many calculators will base your results on whether or not there are other people living in your household. For me I factored in my two roommates so my number went up, but there are some that will focus solely on your personal consumption. Do not assume that every calculator is the same and should therefore give you universal results. The amount of water you consume will change, and how the calculator interprets your water use will change. The only important thing is how you personally interpret the results and change your behaviors according to them.
The biggest component of my water footprint was water used for food production. Up until a few days ago I was eating meat, which requires copious amounts of water just for the process of raising the animals to the very end where they are packed and sent off to grocery store shelves. While I was still consuming meat my water footprint was around 1,400 gallons a day, considerably higher than my new daily number the beginning of my paper. Also, any fruits and vegetables I eat account for a lot of water consumption. I think it is safe to say that a lot of people have food production as one of their biggest components on the water footprint. From this experience I have decided to revert back to being vegetarian to cut down on my water consumption from animal raising. I also want to encourage others around me who are concerned about the impact of their water footprint to buy food locally and maybe even cut meat out of their diet one day a week. They would be shocked by the results and how much water they could save with these few simple practices.