How Shopping at Thrift Stores Saves Water – YWF’s Water-Saving Tips of the Week

jeans better

Infographic from Your Water Footprint

History in Your Jeans

One way or another your jeans came from the Indus Valley in Pakistan and northeast India. The Indus is a huge valley and river system that drains part of the Himalayan Mountains and is the birthplace of cotton. River and groundwater are used to irrigate rows of cotton plants.

The jeans you’re wearing contain about 800 grams (28 ounces) of cotton, and it took a whopping  15,000 liters (3,960 gallons) of water to grow that much cotton in this dry part of the world. Most of the water evaporated or was used by the cotton plants, and some ended up as wastewater or gray water. That raw cotton was shipped to an urban center or to another country such as Bangladesh, the biggest exporter of textiles. In the factory the raw cotton is washed, dyed and then washed again.

If you think about it, putting on our clothing is like wearing some of the water, soil and sun of faraway places such as the Indus Valley in Pakistan, and the labor of the hard-working hands in the cotton mills of Dhaka, Bangladesh.

How to save thousands of litres (gallons) of water

  • Shop at Thrift Stores  -save  2,900 liters (766 gallons) by just buying a previously-loved T-shirt!
  • Shop Organic – cotton grown without the use of insecticides and chemical fertilizers, and thus it has a smaller water footprint because it produces little water pollution.
  • Buy Local – U.S. cotton has a water footprint of 8,100 liters (2,140 gallons) per kilogram, much less than other countries

Your Water Footprint

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

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 daily water footprint amounts to 8,000 litres (2100 gal). 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

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

 (Now available on Kindle)

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)

World Water Day: The cost of cotton exports in water-challenged India

Women and children gather water from pumps in India

 More than 100 million people in India do not have access to safe water. Severe water scarcity in India is exacerbated by the cotton industry. Concerns are high, but are businesses, consumers and government doing enough?

Virtual water

Cotton is by no means India’s largest export commodity – petroleum products followed by gems and jewellery follow closely behind. All of these exports require water to produce, and the quantities needed are staggering. Not only does it take water to grow anything, it also takes water to make anything: cars, furniture, books, electronics, buildings, jewellery, toys and even electricity. This water that goes largely unseen is called virtual water.

What’s easy to forget is that virtual water is as real as the water you drink. Producing 1kg of cotton in India consumes 22,500 litres of water, on average, according to research done by the Water Footprint Network. In other words, this 22,500 litres of water cannot be used for anything else because it has either evaporated or is too contaminated for reuse.

By exporting more than 7.5m bales of cotton in 2013, India also exported about 38bn cubic metres of virtual water. Those 38bn cubic metres consumed in production of all that cotton weren’t used for anything else. Yet, this amount of water would more than meet the daily needs of 85% of India’s vast population for a year.

Doing things differently

Cotton doesn’t usually consume this much water. The global average water footprint for 1kg of cotton is 10,000 litres. Even with irrigation, US cotton uses just 8,000 litres per kg. The far higher water footprint for India’s cotton is due to inefficient water use and high rates of water pollution — about 50% of all pesticides used (pdf) in the country are in cotton production.

Most of India’s cotton is grown in drier regions and the government subsidises the costs of farmers’ electric pumps, placing no limits on the volumes of groundwater extracted at little or no cost. This has created a widespread pattern of unsustainable water use and strained electrical grids.

Recent reports show that India’s water consumption is far too high. In 54% of the country 40 to 80% of annually available surface water is used. To be sustainable, consumption should be no more than 20% in humid zones and 5% in dry areas, to maintain the ecological function of rivers and wetlands, experts say (pdf).

India’s extensive groundwater resources are also rapidly being depleted, with 58% of wells in the drier north-west India experiencing declining water levels. By 2030 demand will outstrip supply by 50%, according to the World Resources Institute.

“India’s water problems are well-known in the country and pollution is everywhere. Disagreement lies in the solutions,” says Arjen Hoekstra, professor in water management at the University of Twente in the Netherlands.

The new Indian government’s solution to the spectre of growing severe water scarcity is the $168bn (£113bn) National River Linking Project, which will link 30 rivers with 15,000km of canals. This will transfer 137bn cubic metres of water annually from wetter regions to drier ones. However, the country exports far more water than that, in the form of virtual water, in cotton, sugar, cereals, motor vehicles and its many other exports.

Faltering forward

All of these exports could be produced using far less water, says Hoekstra, who pioneered the water footprint concept. “It’s not just improving water efficiency that could dramatically reduce India’s water consumption, it’s growing and producing things in the right place,” he said.

Most of India’s water-rich crops such as cereals and cotton are grown in the dry states of Punjab, Uttar Pradesh and Haryana, which have very high evaporation rates, unlike wet states such as Bihar, Jharkhand and Orissa. This perverse situation greatly exacerbates India’s water problems and is largely the result of government policies, Hoekstra’s 2009 study (pdf) states.

“There’s a lot of concern about water scarcity, but little interest in changing consumption patterns,” Hoekstra said.

That said, there is growing interest in the Better Cotton Initiative, an industry-led effort using standards to reduce cotton’s water footprint. Organic cotton production also has a lower net water use because it uses no chemicals. Encouragingly, India currently produces two-thirds of the world’s organic cotton. However, this is just 2% of the country’s cotton acreage.

Rather than matching production of goods to the sustainable use of existing water resources, India, like governments around the world, hopes to use engineering to increase the amount of water, said Hoekstra. Instead, India could grow cotton in less arid regions with more efficient irrigation and fewer pesticides to greatly reduce the crop’s impact on water resources.

Stephen Leahy is an international award winning journalist and author of Your Water Footprint, winner of the best science book for 2014.

First published at The Guardian Friday 20 March 2015 . 


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 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.

Oil Steals the Headlines but Peak Water is Here

Oil steals all the headlines, but the virtual water that goes into producing the things we eat, wear and use every day is the biggest risk to humanity


First published by NOW magazine

“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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“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.