The term carbon footprint is now quite a familiar one and one which most of us understand. Businesses and individuals are now very aware of the issues involved with climate change and energy consumption, and are keen to reduce their impact on the environment.
But a newer and maybe less well recognised term is Water Footprint. The term, as defined by the Water Footprint Network is ‘is defined as the total volume of freshwater that is used to produce the goods and services consumed by the individual or community or produced by the business’
Basically, it’s all about the amount of water we consume.
And why should we be aware of it? Because “on water we are four years behind where we are on climate change-it has not yet seeped down into the consciousness of the majority of people or our political leaders,” says Maude Barlow, the National Chairperson of the Council of Canadians and Senior Advisor on Water to the 63rd President of the United Nations General Assembly. On a world-wide basis, there is a growing shortage of water.
For some, particularly those suffering from the devastating effects of flooding, this may seem like an unreasonable concept. But in truth we have no control over the supply of water. We can neither stop the rain falling when it causes flooding, nor can we make it start when there is a drought. According to the UN World Water Assessment Programme it is estimated that by 2025, more than two thirds of the world’s population will have to deal with chronic water shortages.*
And we may not think it’s a concern of ours as we live in a country that gets its fair share of rain, but - just like we are becoming more and more focussed on more sustainable and environmentally friendly living to help the world as a whole - the same consideration should be given to our water consumption.
There are many steps we can take to manage and lower our Water Footprint and some are as easy as turning the tap off whilst we brush our teeth; don’t leave the water running, only use what you need. Here are five additional ideas as to how you can save water:
1. Invest in water saving appliances for your toilet, shower and taps. There are many cost effective appliances on the market which can be attached to your toilets, showers and taps. They will not only help reduce the amount of water you use, but can also save you money (if on a water meter).
2. Fix leaks. Stop that dripping tap! Not only will it save water but you’ll get a better night’s sleep without that constant dripping noise.
3. Only operate on full loads. Make sure your dishwasher is full before putting it on. And the same with your washing machine (you could even wear your clothes more before putting them in the wash!)
4. Use waterbutts. Collect rainwater to use in the garden and reduce your reliance on the hosepipe.
5. Eat less meat and waste less food! One that sounds a bit odd, but meat farming actually consumes far more water than growing fruit and vegetables. The amount of water embedded in food is also very considerable so the less food we waste the less water we waste.
The effects of ‘hidden’ water waste in food is the focus of a new behaviour change campaign by food producer Knorr. There is a great article on Edie which explains more about the campaign and provides some startling figures re water waste and water scarcity.
As you read this it may very likely be raining outside so you’re probably thinking that water is the last thing we need to save, but believe it or not, in the wider world, water is getting scarce. Thanks to the Great British weather, and to our utility companies we are in fact very lucky to have access to a constant and clean supply of fresh water, so let’s respect what we have and be aware of our own Water Footprint. So why not take steps to reduce your own right now.?
*Readers Digest Best Health Magazine