5 ways to reduce your water footprint - World Water Day Special!
Today is World Water Day and I was reflecting if there is anything we could do to ensure we all have access to clean water and rivers. The obvious ones are : switching off taps when brushing, taking shorter showers, checking for leaks, water saving shower heads etc. Apart from these usual ones, there are few other ways that can save water effectively. Here is a list of five simple ways by which we can conserve water that we often tend to overlook -
Food Waste: Agricultural supply chains use 70% of global freshwater resources. When food is wasted, all the resources and efforts are simply wasted. According to the Waste & Resources Action Programme (WRAP), the water footprint of avoidable food waste is 6,200 million cubic metres per year, representing nearly 6% of all our water requirements. In per capita terms, this is 243 litres per person per day, approximately one and a half times the daily average household water use in the UK. The most common items of food wasted are bread, milk, potatoes, bananas, and salad. Preventing food waste is a good start toward reducing your water footprint.
Meat and Dairy : Animal agriculture is often ignored in matters of water policy, but it is a key factor to fresh water scarcity. Compared to plant-based products, animal products need more land to obtain a certain nutritional value. The amount of land that is cleared for rearing animals makes animal agriculture a key factor in biodiversity loss. Moreover, rearing animals for food also consumes more water and energy. Roughly 98% of the total water footprint is related to animal feed. The chart below illustrates the water footprint of few selected food products.
Moreover, the slurry from animal farms pollutes UK rivers to the extent that currently, none of them are safe to swim. Rivers are a source of fresh water, and extreme droughts and severe water shortages have been predicted in the UK over the next 25 years. That’s why we need to actively change the way we consume. Food has a big impact on water footprint, by eschewing animal products and avoiding food waste, we can cut down our water footprint massively.
Textiles : The biggest water footprint is the growing and production of fibres. Cotton is one of the thirstiest crops and accounts for 69% of the water footprint in fibre production. Many freshwater lakes and water resources have virtually become deserts because of commercial cotton production. Choose organic cotton clothing or cotton from Better Cotton Initiative. Textile production is responsible for the discharge of hazardous chemicals into water resources, which pollute water and affect aquatic ecosystems. Washing clothes also adds to the water footprint, and artificial clothing leave microplastics in water waste. Choosing sustainably produced natural clothing and second hand clothing can have a significant impact on our personal water footprint.
Water for cooling : Several industries use water as coolants, including electricity generation, automobiles, chemical plants, metallurgy, and even data centres. Living a minimal lifestyle contributes to low impact water footprint. For example, data centres, which are used 24 hours a day and 7 days a week, need water as coolants. Though the water footprint is not as extensive compared to other sectors, the lack of transparency in the water usage here is worrisome. Water is a basic right and should be rightfully available to everyone. Practicing digital minimalism, minimising how much we upload, download, and use digital data to only what is necessary and reducing digital storage will not only reduce our digital footprint but also the resources used for its storage.
Water grabbing : Water grabbing has become a common issue across the world where capitalist tendencies have led to water exploitation. We have often heard that water is the next oil. Many food, beverage, manufacturing industries, and tech companies are involved in water grabbing. Water is a basic right and an essential resource that should be made available to all. As more and more public water systems are being sold to capitalists, we need to be aware of water grabbing and stop encouraging business which are involved in water grabbing.
Conflicts generally arise in areas of water scarcity. So, this World Water Day, lets pledge to see beyond the obvious usage of water to cut down our water footprint and contribute to build a sustainable world where everyone has free and sufficient supply of water.
- Vivina Vincent
Pic credit : https://www.freepik.com/vectors/nature"