Sustainable Habits – Water

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Image credit: eric1513 / 123RF Banque d'imagesLast night I watched a baffling bit of television that focused on people – mostly in the United States – who are busily preparing to survive the end of the world. From what I can tell, they agree more on the impending end of the world more than on the specifics of why the end is nigh. Personally, I’m not very interested in figuring out how to survive in a post-Apocalyptic world if it means living underground for years, or spending a lot of time focusing on disaster rather than on possible ways to avoid disaster. As a schoolgirl during the Cold War, I spent far too many hours under various desks and tables doing ‘duck-and-cover’ nuclear attack drills to ever want to revisit that daily type of fear.

So it was with joy today that I found a quick remedy to the blues of last night’s television viewing: The Water Footprint Network, an organization dedicated to increasing awareness of water use. The WFN focuses on how human consumption and use of freshwater systems can be better understood by examining production and supply chains in their global entirety rather than simply looking at local or regional water levels and usage.

It’s well-known that many companies and countries import water-intensive goods from elsewhere, thus blurring how much water a country actually consumes. I discussed this a little in this post, but the topic is a vast one to which I will be returning.

The stated mission of the Water Footprint Network is to “promote the transition towards sustainable, fair and efficient use of fresh water resources worldwide”.

 The website has a nifty personal water footprint calculator based on use by country. According to this calculator I use well under the national average here in France. This is probably due in part to the fact that we collect rooftop rainwater all year and do all of our gardening and irrigation using garden cisterns.

What astonished me, however was that around half my water consumption was due to one simple fact: I eat meat. Now, the calculator didn’t differentiate between red meat or poultry, or whether the meat was range-fed, local or imported, so I can’t really judge how accurate this measurement is in relation to kind of the meat I eat. Still, I don’t much meat to begin with, and I have a feeling I will be eating even less. Sorry, local meat producers and regional poultry farms.

And I’m guessing – although I haven’t yet looked up whether I’m correct – that the reason 20% of U.S. water consumption actually takes place in China along the Yangtze River (according to WFN) is due to all the manufactured goods imported from there.

Source: WFN

Source: WFN

I liked the comments on how the WFN came up with its footprint logo:  “A dripping foot that is losing an essential part of its structure, a part that is fundamental for human balance(…)The drop of water shown in the water footprint…emphasize(s) that it is water that connects us all.”

This is the kind of survival perspective I can support.

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