Water Footprint of a Simple Environmentally Friendly American

Calculating your water footprint is a great way to start changing your life style. If you are ready to start reducing your impact on the world, knowing where most of the water you waste will help you make more significant changes.  I used two online water footprint calculators. According to Water Footprint  I use 314 gallons per day.  On the other hand, H2O Conserve said I was using 1,115.33 gallons per day. 1,190.5 gallons per day is the American average according to H2O Conserve.  There is a drastic difference between these two numbers.  The main difference is that the H2O Conserve averaged my house’s (2 people) water use and Water Footprint looked at my individual footprint. My roommate and I are very different with our actions and perspectives around water. She eats a lot more meat than I do and has admitted to taking bathes instead of showers every day.  In addition the calculators include different types of questions. H2O Conserve calculates your water footprint based on water used in your home, water used to produce the food you eat, the products you buy, the energy you consume, and the water saved when you recycle for the house hold.  The Water Footprint looks at water to produce specific food, water used in the home and outside and water used in industrial consumption for the individual.  I believe to get an accurate number you should use at least both of these sites.

Because I have such drastically different water footprints I have mixed feelings about the results.  I am proud of one and ashamed of the other.  Even though my roommate accounts for such a large portion of the water, I am still somewhat responsible for her actions. How can I be so knowledgeable of water issues and not able to encourage her to change her patterns? If I can’t get her or even my family to change their ways, what makes me think that I will be able to inspire strangers? Also although 314 gallons a day is below the average American, I am still so far away from the average human.  The average human lives on 10 liters or 2.64 gallons a day.  I waste more water flushing the toilet once than most people do in a day.  The water is also not necessarily clean and could be miles away from the house.  Trying to decrease my water footprint to even 100 gallons a day is an impossible ideal to aim for in modern American culture.  I would be setting myself up for failure, if I pledged to do that.  So what can I do? I pledge to be water conscious in order to make smart decisions in what I eat and what I buy.

 The combined effects of the calculators were helpful.  H2O Conserve was more helpful because as I was going through the questions, there were facts

Market in Morroco: Produce my new diet!

about how much water was used.  For instance, they averaged 35 gallons per bath, 40 gallons per laundry wash and that a vegetarian uses 600 gallons of water less per day than the average American diet.  These side facts helped me to see where all my points are coming from. Then from that information I can determine what changes to implement. The Water Footprint asked for very specific details about what I eat. It asked for amount of meat, dairy, grain, sugar, vegetable and fruit consumed per week in kilograms.  The measurement of kg was the only part I didn’t like. It took a while to figure kg into serving size for each food type.  The numbers I put in were a guess; however, I can still see on the chart the comparison of the water used to produce the different foods.

This is one of the many Museo del Jamon (Ham Museums) in Madrid, Spain. I can not imagine the water footprint of this place!

The main factor that increased my water footprint was my meat consumption. I have been trying to decrease my meat intake. I even went a whole two weeks without eating any! That was the longest I have ever gone without eating meat. It was a lot easier than I ever thought too. I could definitely make a huge change in my water footprint, by not eating any meat. The reason for the high water waste with meat is that its takes so much water to feed the animals and transport the beef.  According to Cornell University “grain-fed beef production takes 100,000 liters of water for every kilogram of food and raising broiler chickens takes 3,500 liters of water to make a kilogram of meat. In comparison, soybean production uses 2,000 liters for kilogram of food produced; rice, 1,912; wheat, 900; and potatoes, 500 liters.”  Although reducing meat consumption is my most significant way to reduce my water footprint, I have also started using less water to clean my dishes; taking shorter showers and created a low-flow toilet by putting space takers in the back of the toilet and “letting it mellow”.  These changes don’t impact my water footprint drastically, but they all help me practice my water consciousness. Through practice I am becoming more aware of how water is so intricately apart of my every moment.

Suckeling pig specialty at Casa Botin, the oldest restaurant in the world, Madrid, Spain. If I eat meat it will be the best from now on!


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