YWF’s Water-Saving Tips of the Week

 

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In the Kitchen

Between 30 and 40% of all food is wasted. That means the enormous amounts of water needed to grow and process this food is also wasted.

Here’s how to cut food waste …and your food bill by over $2000:

  • Understand labels – “Best Before,” “Use By” and “Best By” dates have nothing to do with health or food safety.  Manufacturers simply decide how long their products will remain at peak quality.
  • Go easy on impulse and bulk food purchases. It’s easier to curb waste by buying more often instead of purchasing massive cartloads that are hard to keep track of.
  • Preserve food by freezing instead of leaving it in the fridge to spoil, or prepare smaller portions
  • When eating out, share meals—the average portion has already been supersized.

Food waste is making climate change worse as well.

About Your Daily Water Footprint of 8000 l (2100 gal) YWF graphic -YWF electricity

We don’t realize our societies run on water not oil. There is no electricity or gasoline without water. Nothing can be manufactured without water.  The critically-acclaimed book Your Water Footprint (YWF), uses info graphics to reveal the enormous quantities of water that are used to make the clothes we wear, the electronic devices we use and the food we eat.

On average our water footprint amounts to 8,000 litres (2100 gal) of water each day. This is the net amount, water that can’t be reused.

Water-wise choices is all about smart substitutions and changes in habits.


Your Water Footprint:  The Shocking Facts About How Much Water We Use To Make Everyday Product

Winner, Best Science Book in Canada; First Place NYC Green Book Festival

 160 Pages, 125 Unique Infographics, only $19.95 Paperback   Order today

 (Now available on Kindle)

Author Stephen Leahy to Speak at Canadian Club Feb 18

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Canadian Club of Halton Peel to host award-winning international environmental journalist Stephen Leahy at the Oakville Conference Centre 

Thursday, February 18, 2016

 Stephen, author of “Your Water Footprint: The Shocking Facts About How Much Water We Use To Make Everyday Products”, will show how our entire society runs on water NOT oil. 

Copies of Your Water Footprint will be offered for sale by Different Drummer Books and Stephen will be happy to sign them.

Oakville Conference Centre: 2515 Wyecroft Road, Oakville, Ontario (QEW & Bronte Rd.), L6L 6P8

Registration/Cash Bar 6 pm; Dinner 7 pm     Members $35   Non-Members $45   Students $20  (cash, cheques, debit, Visa & MasterCard)

For information & reservations, contact Barry Wylie, President, at barrywylie1@gmail.com or (905) 827-6302.

Cheques payable to The Canadian Club of Halton Peel with the name(s) of the attendee(s) can be mailed to: Canadian Club of Halton Peel 283 River Side Drive, Oakville, Ontario L6K 3N3

Please notify us of a cancellation by Tuesday, February 16.

Book Award-winning Environmental Journalist and Author

MUSE talk passport

Stephen will be doing more talks in 2016 about about his prize-winning book Your Water FootprintThe Shocking Facts Behind Our Thirst for Earth’s Most Precious Resource (Best Science Book in Canada).  

Reviewers have called Your Water Footprint: “brilliant and shocking” and “exceptionally lucid”

Stephen is also an expert on the United Nations climate talks and climate science. He is a winner of the prestigious Prince Albert/United Nations Global Prize for his Climate Change and Environment Reporting.

As a journalist he has written over 2000 articles on  science and environmental topics around the world for National Geographic, the Guardian, New Scientist, IPS, and many more.

Stephen’s 8-minute talk for Walrus TV:  “We don’t realize our entire society runs on water. It doesn’t run on oil”

 To inquire about Stephen speaking at your event please complete the contact form below.

Book Now for 2016!

Selected 2015 Appearances

Moscow, Idaho/Pullman, Washington
2015 Palouse Basin Water Summit – Keynote Speaker

Mailbu, California and Los Angles Area
MUSE talks

Victoria, B.C. Walrus Talks Water

 Toronto  Ribbon at the Lower Don Festival celebrating the PAN AM Games 

Halifax, Nova Scotia Walrus Talks Water

CONTACT:

Please fill out the form below – it helps reduce spam. Yes, this really works and I will reply — Stephen.

Stephen Leahy, Keynote Speaker, 2015 Palouse Basin Water Summit

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Keynote speaker Stephen Leahy, author of
“Your Water Footprint: The Shocking Facts About How Much Water We Use to Make Everyday Products”

  • Appetizers & no host bar
  • Annual Palouse Basin Aquifer Committee water usage report
  • Raffle for low-flow toilet and individual xeriscaping plan
  • 4:30 to 8:30 p.m. Thursday, October 1, 2015
    Schweitzer Engineering Event Center
    1825 Schweitzer Drive
    Pullman, WA
If you plan to attend the summit, please register!

Stephen Leahy

Stephen is an experienced communicator, award-winning journalist and author of the critcally-acclaimed book Your Water Footprint.

In the midst of a successful corporate career Stephen changed direction to pursue his twin passions for writing and the environment. He has written more than 2000 articles on science and environmental topics around the world for National Geographic, New Scientist, The London Sunday Times, The Guardian, Vice Magazine, Al Jazeera, Maclean’s Magazine, Earth Island Journal, DeSmog Canada, The Toronto Star, Wired News, China Dialogue, Mo Magazine (Europe), TerraGreen (India), and Common Dreams.

In 2012 he was awarded the prestigious Prince Albert/United Nations Global Prize for Climate Change and Environment Reporting.

In late 2014 Stephens first book was published: Your Water Footprint: The Shocking Facts Behind Our Thirst for Earth’s Most Precious Resource. Reviewers have called the book “brilliant and shocking” and “exceptionally lucid.”

Stephen has given talks at conferences, symposiums, university seminars, schools and other events in many countries.

Your Water Footprint

front cover resized1New book investigates the enormous amounts of ‘hidden’ water we consume every day

2015 Winner, Green Book Festival

It takes more than 2,000 gallons of water to make a single pair of jeans. That morning cup of coffee required 37 gallons of water before it found its way to your table – water that was used to grow, process and ship the coffee beans. When we spend money on food, clothes, cellphones or even electricity, we are buying water – a shockingly large amount of water.

Your Water Footprint reveals how water is essential to our way of life in ways we never imagined. While water usage continues to soar, shortages now affect more than 3 billion people including millions of Americans and Canadians. A decade from now 3 out of 5 people will face water shortages.

Your Water Footprint provides essential information to reduce your water use which will help you save money, be prepared for shortages and ensure our children and grandchildren will have abundant fresh water. Water-wise choices is all about smart substitutions and changes, rather than sacrifice and self-denial.

Your Water Footprint Author and Speaker

MUSE talk sml

As an award-winning journalist and author of “Your Water Footprint”, winner of Best Science Book for the General Public,  I’ve given dozens of talks and presentations on environmental issues including water, climate, energy, biodiversity and more.

My back story:

In the midst of a successful corporate career I changed direction to pursue my growing interest in writing, science, conservation and the environment. Over the past 20+ years I’ve written more than 2000 articles on science and environmental topics around the world for National Geographic, the Guardian, New Scientist, IPS, and many more.

For some of this work I was fortunate enough to receive the prestigious Prince Albert/United Nations Global Prize for Climate Change and Environment Reporting.

%22your water footprint%22 reviewsIn late 2014 my first book was published:  Your Water Footprint: The Shocking Facts Behind Our Thirst for Earth’s Most Precious Resource.   Reviewers called the book “brilliant and shocking” and “exceptionally lucid”.  And then it won the award for best science book in Canada.

I’ve done presentations for all ages and backgrounds including kindergarten kids and scientists in California, journalists in South Africa, public officials in Spain, general public in Idaho, teachers and business executives in Toronto.

 For more info please use this contact form.

“The Walrus Talks brings Canada’s brightest minds to theatres across the country to talk about the biggest issues facing our country.  Stephen Leahy has been a welcome addition to the series, and a favourite of our audiences. He’s able to make complex issues seem simple without taking anything away from the urgency and importance of his message. This quality makes his presentations guaranteed
successes.”
– David Leonard, Director of Events, the Walrus Foundation

Book Now for 2017!

Selected Previous Appearances

Canadian Club of Halton Peel — Oakville Conference Centre

Keynote Speaker 2015 Palouse Basin Water Summit – Pullman, Washington

MUSE talks – Calabasas, California

Walrus Talks Water — Victoria, B.C.

 Ribbon at the Lower Don Festival celebrating the PAN AM Games   — Toronto

Durham EcoSchool Teachers workshop 

Walrus Talks Water -Halifax, Nova Scotia  

 Urban Watershed Festival  — Toronto

 “Water for Life” – Oshawa, Ontario

H2Awesome — 900 Grade 8 Students – Guelph High Schools

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Photo Credit: GuelphToday.com

 To contact me please use this contact form.

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Daily Life Takes HOW Much Water?

Posted by Brian Clark Howard of National Geographic in Water Currents on April 9, 2015

YWF graphic -pizza

Did you know it takes 240 gallons of water to make a cell phone? Or 52 gallons to make an egg?

The concept of such “hidden water” may seem unfamiliar to some, but it’s an important part of our impact on the planet, argues author Stephen Leahy in the recent book Your Water Footprint: The Shocking Facts About How Much Water We Use to Make Everyday Products.

Leahy, who has written for National Geographic, spoke with Water Currents about how water is required for almost everything we do, and how we can reduce that impact.

What inspired you to write a book on hidden water?

When I was in Australia doing a piece on climate change and invasive species for National Geographic I took an extra week of vacation and hung out with some Aborigines in a remote part of Queensland. To get water I had to walk 200 yards to a stream. It was heavy to haul the water and when it got dark it felt risky because they have nasty snakes and spiders there. That made me appreciate water more.

Then I went to a sacred waterfall, where shamans are initiated. In one of the final stages a candidate grabs the biggest rock they can lift and jumps into the pool, where they lay down until they drown. If the spirit finds them worthy they are brought back alive and become an official shaman. It had been over 20 years since someone managed that, but hearing about it made me realize that these folks take water really seriously.

And then when I got home from that trip I saw an email from the publisher, Firefly, asking if I wanted to write a book about hidden water. I thought it sounded like a really interesting approach to an important subject.

What aspect of hidden water most surprised you?

I was surprised by just how much water it takes to make everything. We don’t really have any material things without water, from food to housing, furniture, electricity, transportation, and so much more.

I tried hard to find something that doesn’t need any water and I couldn’t, which showed how dependent we are on it. And yet we pay little attention to it. We have a lot of stubstites for oil, but we don’t have any water substitutes.

In your book you note that it takes eight bathtubs of water for a typical breakfast. So what should people do if they want to reduce that?

The easiest way to reduce the amount of water you consume is to cut back on meat, since raising meat is really water intensive. Beyond that, beef is much more water intensive than chicken, so you can substitute one for the other.

Next, if you can buy local food it’s easier to find out about how it was produced, including if the water used was managed sustainably. That’s important because it’s not just the amount of water that’s important, it’s also how it is managed. For example, is excess water returned to the local system?

Farming many water-intensive foods in a desert or semi-desert is not sustainable. California, for example, has a huge water deficit.

It’s also true that about 40% of all food in North America is wasted, which means a huge amount of water is wasted. So reducing food waste can really reduce the amount of water you are using, way more than a low-flow shower head, which is still important.

Meat-based diet VS VegetarianWhat else can people do to save water?

A lot of it is going back to the basics on reducing and reusing stuff. Reduce the number of times you swap our your cell phone for the latest model and you’ll save 240 gallons of water. Find a home for your phone if you really have to have a new one instead of tossing it in the landfill. Consumption of material goods means consumption of water.

Flat screen TVs are also very water intensive, requiring tens of thousands of gallons for each one. So ask yourself if you really need it. Use thrift stores to get your clothes, which are fortunately cool again.

shower

In your book you write that “peak water” is already here and yet few people know it. Can you explain what that means?

The amount of freshwater that’s available is limited, it’s a tiny fraction of all the water there is on the planet. But our demand is soaring. We’re growing in numbers and in our consumption of things, and each and everything requires water, and lots of it.

The Ogallala Aquifer [in the Great Plains] is declining about nine feet a year and within 20 years or so it’s going to be empty. It’s the same problem in California. Three in five people in the world will be experiencing water scarcity by 2025. At Davos world leaders recently said that the biggest challenge humanity faces in the next 10 years is water scarcity.

We’ve covered hidden water at National Geographic before (and in our water footprint calculator) and people often tell us they struggle to understand the concept. They think of water as what comes out of their tap. Do you think it’s a hard message to get across?

It’s a hard message for adults but apparently not so hard for kids, who seem to grasp it right away. Our new book has a lot of infographics that try to break it down to help people understand it. We try to show, for example, that a car is like a giant bag of water, with another bag of water on top of that for fuel. Clothes are bags of water, so are books.

There also seems to be a widening gap between many people around the world who don’t have clean water and those of us who seem to be using more and more. How can this gap be bridged?

Ginormous rivers of virtual water are flowing from one country to another. A lot of it isn’t very smart.

For example, Egypt is a big exporter of oranges, mostly to Europe. But it’s a desert country. It takes roughly 20 gallons of water for each orange, but at the same time they don’t have enough water to grow the food they need. So they end up importing cheap food from other countries.

Australia is the biggest virtual exporter of water, through mining and agricultural products, but it’s also the driest continent, so that doesn’t make sense.

virtual water trade wfn smlSo what can people do?

Don’t use more water than you have. If you can grow crops that can be rain fed, that don’t require irrigation, that’s great. If it requires adding water drip irrigation is far more efficient than flood irrigation.

Stop and think before you do something if you really need it or if there is another way to get the service. Can you get those jeans at a thrift store? Can you take a train instead of drive [which saves on the amount of water needed for fuels]? Can you get your cell phone used?

Our entire way of life is based on water; not oil

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Water, water everywhere, but too much is being exploited

BY PAUL WEINBERG | JANUARY 15, 2015

Oh dear, not another reason to worry about the planet! There’s already climate change, pollution, industrial agricultural practices and water and energy profligacy, to name just a few.

Now, veteran journalist, Green candidate for Parliament and first time author Stephen Leahy, in his recently published book, Your Water Footprint: The Shocking Facts About How Much Water We Use to Make Everyday Products, has come up with a new reason to worry about the planet: the worsening shortages of fresh water that are overexploited for industrial purposes.

“Our entire way of life is based on water; it is not based on oil as government tells us,” says Leahy, who is based in Uxbridge, just east of Toronto.

Leahy is referring specifically to “virtual water,” which involves non-recyclable fresh water that is consumed during the production of food, energy and manufactured goods, but is invisible to the consumer.

It is here that Leahy has concerns with regards to exponential growth. He argues that the tripling of fresh water usage in the past 50 years is not sustainable because this is a finite and irreplaceable resource.canada54

At the same time, he reports, there is insufficient fresh water in the world for human sustenance. Here, the resource is more likely to be recycled and re-used.

Nevertheless, about 1.2 billion people on the Earth live in areas with chronic water scarcity; while another two billion are affected by shortages every year. By 2025, three in five people may be living with water shortages.

To deliver this message, Your Water Footprint relies on a smart combination of graphics and text in its depiction of how virtual water is used in the economy.

It takes, for instance, more than 7,600 litres or 2,000 gallons of water to produce a pair of jeans; 2,460 litres or 650 gallons for a T-shirt; and 8,000 litres or 2,113 gallons for a single pair of leather shoes.

He estimates that the clothes in his closet are the result of hundreds of thousands of litres of water applied during the production process.

Since many of our clothes in North America are imported, we are literally “sucking” up water from the developing countries in the making of inexpensive garments for the affluent north, his book reports.

cheeseburgerFurthermore, to produce one kilogram of beef, one needs 15,400 litres or 4,068 gallons of water, which is almost 1.5 times the volume of a concrete mixer truck. Animals, explains Leahy “have a much larger water footprint than crops,” in food production.

Also, a single smart phone uses 910 litres or 240 gallons of water in the manufacturing process.

Leahy says that the direct water usage by the average American (showers, toilet, washing, cooking and drinking) is around 378 litres or 100 gallons. In contrast, the virtual water used in what Americans eat, wear and use during the day averages 7,500 litres or 1,980 gallons.

“Humanity faces difficult choices about how best to use the limited amount of water that we have. This has become even more challenging with growing demands on water from a rising population that’s expected to add a billion more people by 2030,” the author says.

This is Leahy’s first book, having spent the past 20 years in daily reporting for a range of news outlets including the New Scientist, Earth Island Journal, the Toronto Star, Sunday Times, The Guardian, Aljazeera English and Vice. Until recently he was the science and environment correspondent for the Rome based non-profit news agency, Inter Press Service.

A veritable globe trotter, he has attended and covered major international scientific conferences, particularly in the area of climate change. His travelling costs have been assisted in part through crowd sourcing efforts online.

In order get his head around the matter of virtual water, Leahy says he had to get on top of related trends in climate, food and energy because all these issues are interrelated.

Human beings — and that includes environmental experts like himself — tend to get stuck in silos of specialized knowledge and lose sense of the bigger picture, he explains. “It is quite a shift to integrate holistically,” says Leahy.

As someone who has from his reporting became quite familiar with the environmental challenges facing the planet, the author still found the research on virtual water a bit of an eye opener. “I knew that [humans] used a lot of water, but I didn’t realize it was that much.”

Leahy says his book “would not have been possible,” without the assistance of the University of Twente in the Netherlands which has its own academic department on water resources and where the data and analysis is freely available for researchers.

Furthermore, he observes, there is less awareness of the water footprint issue in comparison to the better publicized climate change. “Very few governments have come to grips with virtual water,” notes Leahy.

One has to assume Leahy is including Canada’s government here because he has been busy talking about this issue and Your Water Footprint with teachers and students at schools.

Leahy also says he’s caught the research and writing bug and wants to write another book.

Initially, he found the first book hard to write because his journalism career has consisted of jumping from one subject to another all the time.

“Once I got into it and I had to really force myself to get into it, then I enjoyed being able to explore a subject in depth. I really had to think about how to present the information, make it accessible for people,” he notes.

Paul Weinberg is a Hamilton based freelance writer who can be reached at paulweinberg@bell.net 

Your Water Footprint: The Shocking Facts About How Much Water We Use to Make Everyday Products

by Stephen Leahy (Firefly Books, 2014; $19.95)

Order today

In US:  AmazonPowell’s Books; Barnes&NobleIndiebound

Canada:  Chapters-Indigo Signed copies avail at Blue Heron Books – Stephen’s home town bookstore; In Ottawa visit the legendary Octopus Books

UK:  WH SmithAmazonWaterstones

Australia: Angus & RobertsonBooktopia

New Zealand: Mighty Ape

8 Shocking Facts About Water Consumption

Average water footprint of a regular sized bottle of cola
Average water footprint of a regular sized bottle of cola

By Anastasia Pantsios for EcoWatch

Water is a finite resource. And its preciousness has been driven home by water wars in California, where record drought has agricultural users, fracking interests and home consumers vying for the same supply; in the southwest where the water levels in the rivers, aquifers and reservoirs that provide waters to major communities like Phoenix and Las Vegas are dropping; and in the battles being fought over withdrawing water from the Great Lakes. Reducing our water footprint is essential to conserving this life-giving substance.

We actually have two water footprints: direct and indirect. Many of us are familiar with direct water-use footprint, and mat already be taking steps to reduce it: taking shorter showers, not letting the water run while we’re brushing our teeth, doing fewer loads of laundry, flushing the toilet less often or even installing low-flush toilets.

We probably don’t think of our indirect water footprint often if at all, which involved the water used to make the products and services we use. Author Stephen Leahy, an Ontario-based environmental journalist, wrote about some of them in his book Your Water Footprint published earlier this year.

“A ‘water footprint’ is the amount of fresh water used to produce the goods and services we consume, including growing, harvesting, packaging and shipping,” he says. “From the foods we eat to the clothes we wear to the books we read and the music we listen to, all of it costs more than what we pay at the checkout.”

Here are some things you can do to reduce your indirect water footprint.

1. Leahy reveals that 95 percent of our water footprint is hidden in our meals. While a pound of lettuce costs about 15 gallons of freshwater and a slice of bread only 10 gallons, chocolate can cost an astronomical 2,847 gallons a pound and beef can run us 2,500 gallons. Given that raising livestock is particularly water-intensive, eating vegetarian is one good way to reduce your water footprint. Better yet, go vegan: all animal products, including cheese, eggs, butter and milk take a lot of water to produce. Chicken has a much lower water footprint than beef though, so even giving up red meat can help.

arjen quote2. Think about what you drink. Tell people you’re passing on the soft drink and going for a beer because its water footprint is lower. And it is. A beer takes about 20 gallons of water to create, while soft drinks can be close to 50, depending on packaging and what sugars are used. And drink tea instead of coffee. Coffee consumes about 37 gallons of water in the production process, tea takes only 9 gallons.

3. The clothes we wear also consume vast amounts of freshwater to produce with cotton T-shirts and denim jeans exceptionally high in water use. One pound of cotton requires 700 gallons of water. Shop secondhand, thrift and vintage stores, or buy well-made clothes intended to last.

4. Actually, buying to last is a good way to reduce water consumption in general. Virtually all manufactured products consume a lot of water in the process. To manufacture a smartphone requires 240 gallons of water. Do you really need to trade in your phone every time a new model comes out?

5. Take public transportation (or better yet walk.) Not only do cars consume tens of thousands of gallons of water during manufacturing, but the gas required to run them uses more than a gallon of water for each gallon of gas.

6. Don’t install or use a garbage disposal. It’s water intensive. Compost instead.

7. Cut your plastic use! Making one pound of plastic requires 24 gallons of water. Use less and recycle what you can. Look for items with less packaging.

8. If you have a garden, install rain barrels to conserve water instead using that hose. Rain barrels hook up to your downspouts and collect rain water to reuse. You can make one from a 55-gallon drums (more recycling) and a easy-to-find little hardware. There’s a big movement among artists to paint rain barrels so that you can also have a distinctive and colorful work of art outside your house.

“The saying that ‘nothing is free’ applies more to water than anything else we consume, considering just three percent of the world’s water is drinkable and that we are using more of it than ever before,” says Leahy. “Many experts predict dire water shortages if we continue on our current path. Factor in climate change, population growth and pollution and we have an unsustainable situation.”

There’s lots more information about your water footprint and what you can do to reduce it at WaterFootprint.org. They even have a calculator so you can figure out your own water footprint.

Link to original article

Your Water Footprint:  The Shocking Facts About How Much Water We Use To Make Everyday Products

only  $19.95  large format paperback 

October 2014 Firefly Books, 160 Pages, 125 Unique Infographics (Also in hardcover) 

Order today

In US:  AmazonPowell’s Books; Barnes&NobleIndiebound

Canada:  Chapters-Indigo Signed copies avail at Blue Heron Books – Stephen’s home town bookstore; In Ottawa visit the legendary Octopus Books

UK:  WH SmithAmazonWaterstones

Australia: Angus & RobertsonBooktopia

New Zealand: Mighty Ape

Aside

Screen Shot 2014-12-11 at 10.51.45 PMWater is far more valuable and useful than oil

The water footprint of a half-litre bottle of water is 5.5 litres – yet well over a billion people live in areas with chronic scarcity

Motorbike rider with boy young passenger carrying huge number of plastic water storage pots
 Plastic pots, used to store water, being transported in Hyderabad, India. Photograph: Mahesh Kumar/AP

Even after 20 years of covering environmental issues in two dozen countries I had no idea of the incredible amounts of water needed to grow food or make things. Now, after two years working on my book Your Water Footprint: the shocking facts about how much water we use to make everyday products, I’m still amazed that the t-shirt I’m wearing needed 3,000 litres to grow and process the cotton; or that 140 litres went into my morning cup of coffee. The rest of my breakfast swallowed 1,012 litres: small orange juice (200 litres); two slices of toast (112 litres); two strips of bacon (300 litres); and two eggs (400 litres).

Water more valuable and useful than oil

Researching all this I soon realised that we’re surrounded by a hidden world of water. Litres and litres of it are consumed by everything we eat, and everything we use and buy. Cars, furniture, books, dishes, TVs, highways, buildings, jewellery, toys and even electricity would not exist without water. It’s no exaggeration to say that water is far more valuable and useful than oil.

A water footprint adds up the amount of water consumed to make, grow or produce something. I use the term consumed to make it clear that this is water that can no longer be used for anything else. Often water can be cleaned or reused so those amounts of water are not included in the water footprints in the book. The water footprint of 500ml of bottled water is 5.5 litres: 0.5 for the water in the bottle and another five contaminated in the process of making the plastic bottle from oil. The five litres consumed in making the bottle are as real water as the 500ml you might drink but hardly anyone in business or government accounts for it.

The incredible amounts of water documented in Your Water Footprint are based primarily on research done at the University of Twente in the Netherlands, where Arjen Hoekstra originated the concept of water footprints. The amount consumed to make something varies enormously depending on where the raw materials come from and how they are processed. Wheat grown in dry desert air of Morocco needs a lot more water than wheat grown in soggy Britain. For simplicity, the amounts in the book are global averages.

One of the biggest surprises was learning how small direct use of water for drinking, cooking and showering is by comparison. Each day the average North American uses 300 to 400 litres. (Flushing toilets is the biggest water daily use, not showers.) 400 litres is not a trivial amount; however, the virtual water that’s in the things we eat, wear and use each day averages 7,500 litres in North America, resulting in a daily water footprint of almost 8,000 litres. That’s more than twice the size of the global average. Think of running shoes side by side: the global shoe is a size 8; the North American a size 18. By contrast, the average water footprint of an individual living in China or India is size 6.

Peak water is here

Water scarcity is a reality in much of the world. About 1.2 billion people live in areas with chronic scarcity, while 2 billion are affected by shortages every year. And as the ongoing drought in California proves, water scarcity is an increasing reality for the US and Canada. Water experts estimate that by 2025 three in five people may be living with water shortages.

While low-flow shower heads and toilets are great water savers, the water footprint concept can lead to even bigger reductions in water consumption. For example green fuels may not be so green from a water consumption perspective. Biodiesel made from soybeans has an enormous water footprint, averaging more than 11,000 litres per litre of biodiesel. And this doesn’t include the large amounts of water needed for processing. Why so much water? Green plants aren’t “energy-dense,” so it takes a lot of soy to make the fuel.

Beef also has a big footprint, over 11,000 litres for a kilo. If a family of four served chicken instead of beef they’d reduce their water use by an astonishing 900,000 litres a year. That’s enough to fill an Olympic size pool to a depth of two feet. If this same family of opted for Meatless Mondays, they’d save another 400,000 litres. Now they could fill that pool halfway.

We can do nearly everything using less water. It’s all about smart substitutions and changes, rather than sacrifice and self-denial, but we can’t make the right choices unless we begin to see and understand the invisible ways in which we rely on water.

Stephen Leahy is an environmental journalist based in Ontario, Canada

Link to Guardian article

Your Water Footprint:  The Shocking Facts About How Much Water We Use To Make Everyday Products

only  $19.95  large format paperback 

October 2014 Firefly Books, 160 Pages, 125 Unique Infographics (Also avail in hardcover) 

Order today

In US:  AmazonPowell’s Books; Barnes&NobleIndiebound

Canada:  Chapters-Indigo Signed copies avail at Blue Heron Books – Stephen’s home town bookstore; In Ottawa visit the legendary Octopus Books

UK:  WH SmithAmazonWaterstones

Australia: Angus & RobertsonBooktopia

New Zealand: Mighty Ape