Water Footprint Assignment – Lauren

The book “Globalization of water: Sharing the planet’s freshwater resources” by Arjen Y. Hoekstra and Ashok K. Chapagain defines a water footprint as “the total volume of freshwater that is used to produce the goods and services consumed by the individual or community or produced by the business”. After searching for a water footprint calculator I found one on the National Geographic website that I felt was most inclusive of all the aspects of my life. I was shocked to see how large my footprint was and started to think of ways that I could reduce it. It is difficult to comprehend how much water goes into your daily life and how that can all add up in a household, neighborhood, country, and globally. My personal footprint, according to the National Geographic calculator was 1,337 gallons of water per day. The United States average is 1,981 gallons per day. I did these calculations based on living in an apartment in Ithaca, New York. The calculator asked questions about water use in home and yard (how many loads of laundry, if you have replaced your shower heads, faucets, and toilets with energy efficient ones, how long you take a shower for, if you use a dishwasher, if you have a lawn or pool, etc.), in your diet (if you ate meat, drank milk, etc.), your transportation habits (you car’s MPG, airline travel, etc.), and your shopping habits (how often you purchase clothing, paper, electronics, etc.).

At the top of the picture attached, you can see where my footprint compares to the average of the United States broken down into the above categories. The area where I use significantly less water is in the diet section because I am a vegetarian. The picture attached showed the final results for my footprint, without having made any pledges for reducing it. This calculator is a useful tool because it shows the user which areas of their life they are using the most water, and it gives them options and suggestions for reducing the amount of water they use.

Knowing my water footprint has definitely made me more aware of my everyday consumption. I believe that the first step to making a significant reduction in your water footprint is to be aware of which areas of your life you are using the most water. You can then target that area of your life and begin the reduction process there. By breaking your water footprint down into categories makes the task of reducing your water footprint less daunting because it gives you a place to start.

For part two of this assignment I have chosen to analyze the online water calculator I used (http://environment.nationalgeographic.com/environment/freshwater/water-footprint-calculator/). This is one of many online water footprint calculators I have used and I have experienced different results with each. This is probably due to the fact that no calculator is exactly the same and they all ask different questions about your daily habits. No calculator can be completely accurate and encompass every single gallon of water you use daily. All the calculators ask you for different information, therefore the results will be different.

The biggest component of my water footprint was my energy usage, including car mileage and how often you fly. This is because producing and consuming fossil fuels is a major endeavor that requires the use of many, many resources, including water. From this we can learn what a lot of people have been teaching for a long time now; that we need to switch to a cleaner and renewable energy source that does not require so much exhaustible natural resources. This in itself is a huge undertaking that cannot be done overnight. The key to switching to renewable energy sources is to make small transitions at first, moving in the direction of clean energy.


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