Thomas Fuller said it best, “We never know the worth of water till the well is dry”.
In the middle of a very cold winter two years ago, I went out to fill the water troughs for my Highland cows. I was horrified when the turned-on tap didn’t produce a single drop because just like us, animals cannot live without water. Water is life and there is not a single living organism that can live without it. And yet, we collectively waste it, pollute it and allow companies to drain our aquafers even during the worst of droughts.
It has been said that the Earth provides for everyone’s need but not everyone’s greed, and that is what I would like to talk about today. It is unlikely that the Earth will ever run out of water, but how much of our H2O remains usable and available to those who need it, is of great concern. Experts have predicted in less than 10 years nearly three billion people will be experiencing a real water scarcity and two thirds of the world will be living under water-stressed conditions. Some feel armed conflicts will result. That being said, I would like you to Consider This….
The number of issues facing our water supply is immense. From fracking and global warming to polluting our oceans and drinking water to a growing demand and a growing population, the list goes on and on.
I am going to talk mostly about our water-footprint which is basically the total amount of H2O that is needed for the production of all goods and services added to our personal water usage. There are a lot of numbers out there, but in North America the norm is about 7800 litres (2060 gallons) per day-which is as much as it takes to fill an Olympic sized pool!
I know it seems like that number is completely ridiculous, but let’s walk through a typical morning for many of us. We get up and take a shower, brush our teeth, flush the toilet, and then eat a breakfast of say toast, eggs with a couple of pieces of bacon, a small glass of juice and a cup of coffee to wash it down. We haven’t left the house and have already used about 1200 litres or 320 gallons, and that doesn’t include the over 5,000 litres/1320 gallons it took to put on our cotton shirt and our favorite pair of jeans. It also took water to make the dishes we eat off of and produce the shampoo and to run the electricity and and and...
The cars we drive take more than 60,000 gallons to produce, and then there is 2 gallons of H2O for every gallon of gas. Some of our favorite treats take enormous amounts of water to produce from almonds at a gallon for each one to about 400 gallons for a chocolate bar and 60 gallons to produce a glass of wine. There is good news for Beer drinkers – each beer takes only 19 gallons to produce and for the vegans and vegetarians out there, your water-footprint is much less than the meat eaters. With beef, chicken and pork ringing in between 600 and 1850 gallons per pound, which is around 150 times more than it takes to grow the same weight in plant food.
If you would like to figure out your water-footprint, there is a very cool tool on line that calculates your daily average water footprint (this one is specific to America, but you can use it to get a good idea).
Not running the water to brush our teeth and purchasing low flow everything helps but that type of water usage is very small compared to what is used to produce food and consumer products. So what can we do?
One of the most important things we can do is to be less wasteful. This means stop overbuying food that ends up in the landfills and clothing that we hardly wear. Work hard at the 3 R’s: Reduce, Reuse and Recycle. Eat lower on the food chain-start off with Meatless Mondays, then add another day or two of vegetarian or vegan meals. If you do eat meat, buy locally produced grass fed products. Buy less processed foods, more sustainable foods and grow some yourself. Don’t support companies that are known for their water crimes-a quick Google search will tell you who they are. Fix leaks, buy Energy Star appliances, use shower buckets, take fewer baths, and conserve energy.
We all need to work at creating an environment that doesn’t need protecting, and we do this with knowledge and our efforts.