Photo by Jordan Rowland on Unsplash
Do you know how much water you consume and how? Do you know the impact that this consumption has on the environment and climate change? What if I told you that small daily gestures are enough to change the fate of our planet?
These are the questions we are called to reflect today on World Water Day with the theme “Water and climate change”. Because water is our most precious resource: we must use it in a more responsible way. In fact, with the increase of the global population, the demand for water is also increasing, the availability of which is also shrinking due to climate change, for example with heat waves and drought. We need to balance all the water needs of our society by ensuring that the poorest people are not left behind. Either change immediately, introducing new models of sustainable and anti-waste consumption where water is more available, as in western countries, or the problem will become explosive.
Everyone has a role to play. In our daily lives there are surprisingly simple steps that we can all take to deal with climate change.
The first step is to understand how much water we consume and how.
Every day an Italian citizen consumes on average 250 liters (equivalent to the volume of a Panda Car’s trunk) for his personal hygiene, laundry, cooking and drinking.
We have the primacy in Europe in this matter; just consider that this consumption in northern Europe is on average about 180 liters per person.
But, in reality, everyone’s water consumption is not only linked to domestic activities. To understand how much water we consume overall every day in the course of our life we have to calculate our “water footprint“. The water footprint of an individual is defined as the total volume of water used to produce the goods and services consumed by that individual, such as food, energy, transport, clothing and electronic products.
For example, to grow, harvest, pack, transport and store a kilogram of lettuce that arrives on our table, an average of 238 liters of water are consumed. Think that 15,415 liters are used for a kilogram of beef. The figure below shows the water footprint for each kilogram of food we consume daily. While our body needs around 2 liters of drinking water per day, producing our daily food requires up to 5,000 liters.
The production of cotton for our clothes is whitin the crops that requires most water in the world, with around 10,000 liters of water per kilogram of cotton produced and around 8,000 liters of water consumed for each pair of jeans. Furthermore, about 80% of the total water footprint of the cotton crop is located in countries such as China, Pakistan, India and Uzbekistan, where there is water scarcity and there are other problems such as water pollution, destruction ecosystems and deteriorating people’s health, among others.
You may not realize it, but when you use energy, you are also using a lot of water. 0.1 to 68 liters of water are needed for each kWh of energy produced according to the energy source used. 7 liters of water are needed for each liter of oil produced, 2.5 liters for each liter of petrol or diesel produced while photovoltaics and wind energy do not require the consumption of water for the production of energy. It becomes essential to use energy more efficiently in our homes, by switching to energy-efficient appliances and light bulbs or by turning off electronic devices when they are not in use. Just as driving less, using bicycles, carpooling and public transport instead of fuel or biofuel vehicles, preferring trains and ships to flying, could reduce the water footprint by 36% per person in 1 year!
Finally, our mobile phones require raw materials extracted from all over the world and the production process has a significant water footprint, which is estimated to be around 12,760 liters per device.
Considering therefore all the goods and services that we consume, the water footprint of an Italian citizen is not only given by the 250 liters of water used daily for domestic use but it is estimated at around 5,000-6,300 liters per day. In Madagascar, a citizen’s water footprint is on average about two-thirds that of an Italian citizen.
In conclusion, it is important to keep informed in order to choose and have the opportunity to change your consumption habits. For example, we can think of optimizing the use of water for domestic use, reducing food waste and consumerism and opting to purchase food or clothes that have a lesser impact on water resources. Other recommendations include opting for energy efficient appliances, driving less, using the bicycle or public transport instead of fuel or biofuel vehicles, and changing electronic devices only when it becomes necessary.
Your lifestyle can be more sustainable in terms of water footprint! A small effort to conserve water generates enormous benefits and every citizen can have a significant impact!
Do you want to find out if your lifestyle is sustainable and anti-waste and think about which activities you should optimize? You can find out your water footprint on the website: www.aquapath-project.eu/footprint/.
Beatrice Cantoni PhD candidate in water management
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