YWF’s Water-Saving Tips of the Week

In the Bathroom

  • Check for toilet leaks by adding food coloring to the tank.  If the toilet is leaking, color will appear in the bowl within 30 minutes. (Flush as soon as test is done, since the food coloring may stain.) Check for worn-out, corroded or bent parts. Most replacement parts are inexpensive, readily available and easily installed.

In the Mall

  • Consider secondhand clothing.  It takes a whopping 2,900 liters (766 gallons) to make a plain cotton shirt! You can achieve big reductions in your water footprint by buying clothes secondhand or by wearing polyester, which requires much less water
    to produce.

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 Green Book Festival, NYC

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

 (Now available on Kindle)

Book Critics Love “Your Water Footprint” – Winner, Best Science Book

YWF smartphone

“…a brilliant and shocking exposé on
precisely how much water we use…”
 — Publishers Weekly

“This book is unique in its handling of a complex topic…the content is timely, important, and fascinating” — Library Journal

…exceptionally lucid narration with arresting, full-page info graphics”  — Booklist,  starred review

“Leahy, an award-winning Ontario environmental journalist… makes it clear that the most innocent-seeming actions and products are far from water-neutral. — Toronto Star

“Leahy drops a tsunami of sobering facts and infographics on the heads of readers who take what comes out of their faucets for granted.” — Kirkus Reviews

Journalist Stephen Leahy’s new book about water footprints is a great introduction to the mysterious world of virtual water — EcoCentric

“… answers on our water consumption pour forth in this entertaining and extremely well illustrated book…” — Harvest H20

“Readers will find the information, which is presented in an infographiclike style, easy to understand and to act upon. While the introduction and conclusion expertly unpack the complex issue of water use, the images and large text in the body of the book seem to be geared toward younger readers. However, this book is unique in its handling of a complex topic and is unlike other texts on the subject — C Library Journal

For kids and classrooms too!

“Leahy’s straightforward, teen-friendly explanations and clever, compelling visuals constitute an ideal introduction to the urgent facts about water.”  —Booklist Review

“With exceptionally clear and informative prose and an abundance of well-designed infographics, this book presents the shocking facts about our water usage…. Leahy helps readers understand the nature of the problem by highlighting what is important to know about our global, national, and local water consumption and why… — School Library Journal

“Stephen Leahy’s visual book, full of facts, figures and pictures helps the reader understand just how much water we use every day in ways we often don’t realize.  This fact-packed book would be a welcome addition to any educator’s water resource library and is most suitable for students in grades 4 and up.  — Stacey Widenhofer Green Teacher 2015-06-23

“… the skillfully depicted infographics and mind-boggling facts make Your Water Footprint a must-buy for middle and high school libraries. What sets this book apart is that there is thorough discussion about the world of hidden water, or the water used in the manufacturing industry, including smartphones, clothing, and even the production of household items like televisions.  Common Core Standards are most definitely met in this text, making it a sound book to be used in the classroom, as well as for recreational reading. — Stephanie Wilke VOYA 2015-12-01

“Leahy ha producido un libro de alto valor didáctico, ampliamente ilustrado con imágenes y gráficos”  — Cambio Climatico Bolivia   (Leahy has produced a book of high educational value, amply illustrated with pictures and graphics)

Water Footprint of Beef

Your Water Footprint:

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

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

 (Also avail in hardcover)

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


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

“Our entire society runs on water. It doesn’t run on oil”


A 9 minute talk about the ‘rhino in the room’ of water scarcity and developing “water vision” to see the hidden world of water that’s all around us.

Click here: Stephen Leahy – THE VIRTUAL WORLD OF WATER
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  Screen Shot 2015-06-06 at 12.05.20 PM

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.


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?

“timely, important, and fascinating” — Review of Your Water Footprint

Screen Shot 2014-11-24 at 3.30.01 PMAnyone living on the West Coast and desert regions of the United States is familiar with the concept of water scarcity. As global warming, food and commodity production, and population increases continue to affect the planet and its resources, water scarcity will continue to be an important and critical issue.

Environmental journalist Leahy has created a guide for understanding just how much water is used in our daily activities and in the manufacturing of the products we consume, while putting into context current facts about the status of water availability. Readers will find the information, which is presented in an ­infographiclike style, easy to understand and to act upon.

While the introduction and conclusion expertly unpack the complex issue of water use, the images and large text in the body of the book seem to be geared toward younger readers. However, this book is unique in its handling of a complex topic and is unlike other texts on the subject. Readers interested in a more traditional study on water might choose David Sedlak’s Water 4.0.

VERDICT The content is timely, important, and fascinating, though the infographic-style depiction of water use might not appeal to some adult readers.—Jaime Corris Hammond, Naugatuck Valley Community Coll. Lib., Waterbury, CT

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

October 2014 Firefly Books, 160 Pages, 125 Unique Infographics only $19.95Paperback (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

Your Water Footprint Book Review in Portuguese with Eye-popping Graphics

A água que não vemos, mas consumimos na mesma

15/1/2015, 20:45

E se lhe dissessem que para fabricar uma “motherboard” são usados mais de quatro mil litros de água ultrapura e cerca de 910 litros de água para fabricar um smarthphone?

Dois terços do planeta Terra são água

Quando abrimos a torneira em casa e vemos a água correr facilmente nos esquecemos que 30% da população mundial vive com escassez de água, e que em África ou na Ásia há pessoas que percorrem mais de seis quilómetros para encontrar água potável. Com um alerta de que em 2025 três em cada cinco pessoas podem viver com falta de água, o livro “Your WaterFootprint” (o impacto que cada um de nós tem no planeta em relação à água) pretende mostrar a quantidade que se consome diariamente na América do Norte, e não apenas aquela que se vê.

“Um norte-americano consome em média 378 litros [de água] por dia para tomar banho, lavagens [de roupa, ou loiça, por exemplo], cozinhar e limpar”, refere o livro. Mas a isso pode juntar 2.400 litros de água gastos para produzir o cheeseburgerque comeu ao almoço e 110 litros para produzir a cerveja (de 33 centilitros) que o acompanhou. Plantar, criar, transformar, transportar, embalar, também consome este bem vital. “Espero que as pessoas entendam o quão importante é a ‘água escondida’”, diz ao Observador Stephen Leahy, autor do livro e jornalista de ambiente.


O desafio foi-lhe lançado pela editora Firefly Books. Quando fez uma pequena pesquisa sobre o tema apercebeu-se que não há nada que façamos no nosso dia-a-dia que não inclua (ou tenha incluído) gastos de água. “Queria ajudar as pessoas a perceber que apesar de não vermos a água usada para fazer as coisas é tão real e importante como a água que bebemos.” Durante as pesquisas descobriu que o termo “water footprint” (“pégada de água”) tinha sido criado há já 20 anos por Arjen Hoekstra, professor em Gestão de Água na Universidade de Twente, na Holanda.

O maior consumidor de água é a produção de alimentos, em particular a produção animal, um dos assuntos abordados nodocumentário Cowspiracy. O autor diz que os números de consumo de água usados no documentário são muito semelhantes àqueles a que chegou no livro, mas admite que existem várias fórmulas diferentes e teve de procurar a fonte mais fidedigna. No livro ressalva que muitos dos valores estão adaptados à realidade norte-americana (Canadá, de onde é natural, e Estados Unidos) e explica o que entende por consumo de água – “a água usada que não é devolvida numa localização acessível para ser reutilizada”, ou seja, que fica poluída ou que evaporando vai cair num local distante.


“A Terra tem a mesma quantidade de água doce que tinha no tempo dos dinossauros”, lê-se no livro. “A diferença é que a maior parte da nossa água doce está congelada nas calotes polares ou na Gronelândia. A outra diferença é que encontrámos inúmeras utilizações para a água com as quais os dinossauros nunca sonharam.”

Apesar de muitos dos valores de consumo estarem adaptados à realidade norte-americana o problema da escassez de água é mundial – se toda a água do mundo coubesse num garrafão de cinco litros, a quantidade de água potável disponível seria menos que uma colher de chá -, logo cabe a cada um fazer a sua parte na poupança da água.


Existem regras básicas como tomar duches mais rápidos, não lavar os dentes, os legumes, a loiça, o carro ou fazer a barba com água corrente (de torneira aberta), mas o livro, disponível na Amazon, deixa muitas outras sugestões, das quais recuperamos algumas:

  • Se tiver um autoclismo antigo que gasta cerca de 20 litros troque-o por um que gaste cinco vezes menos.
  • Puxe o autoclismo só quando necessário e não só porque tem um cabelo na parede do vaso sanitário. Lembre-se que mesmo os pequenos lixos, como a mosca que acabou de matar, devem ir para o caixote e não para a sanita.
  • Garanta que nenhuma torneira da casa está a pingar – um pingo por segundo pode significar 10 mil litros gastos por ano – e que o autoclismo não tem nenhuma fuga.
  • Não precisa de passar a loiça por água antes de a pôr na máquina de lavar e use a máquina apenas quando estiver cheia.
  • Se não tiver uma máquina de lavar roupa que adapte a quantidade de água à quantidade de roupa, use-a apenas quando estiver cheia.
  • Para poupar água no jardim mantenha plantas que exijam pouca água, recolha água da chuva para regar, deixe a relva com 10 centímetros para reter melhor a água ou cubra o solo expostos com desperdícios vegetais para reduzir as perdas de água por evaporação.
  • Beba água da torneira. Produzir garrafas de plástico e transportá-las até ao ponto de venda também consome água.

Sierra Club Radio Asks: What’s the Big Deal About Water Footprints?

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100% Clean Energy, Water Footprints and Recycled Batteries

Starts at 11:55:  Stephen Leahy, author of Your Water Footprint: The Shocking Facts About How Much Water We Use to Make Everyday Products 

Original link


“…a brilliant and shocking exposé on precisely how much water we use…” – Publishers Weekly

“This book is unique in its handling of a complex topic…the content is timely, important, and fascinating” — Library Journal

…exceptionally lucid narration with arresting, full-page info graphics”  — Booklist,  starred review

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

October 2014 Firefly Books, 160 Pages, 125 Unique Infographics only $19.95 Paperback (Also avail in hardcover)

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

Screen Shot 2015-01-22 at 10.06.50 PM

Water, water everywhere, but too much is being exploited


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