Weighing Your Water Footprint

Weighing Your Water Footprint

Posted by Valerie McTavish on May 25, 2012 | Green Living

We’ve all become aware of our carbon footprint, but what about the H2O we use for everyday living?

Water may be a renewable resource, but our usage is putting the planet’s health at risk. In the past 100 years, water use has increased at double the rate of population growth. And, despite the current push to be eco-friendly, kinder to the planet and more green, the average Canadian still uses 329 litres of water each day in the winter and that can double in the summer.  

So, how do you measure up? There are several ways to gauge your water usage. The first is to assess your household. To get a clear picture, check your water meter. Read the meter and then flush the toilet, take a bath or run the dishwasher then read it again. This will help determine the water impact of each action.

Another great test is to check your overnight usage – if nobody flushes the toilet or gets a glass of water, your usage should be zero. If it’s not, you likely have a leak. Did you know that as many as 25% of all toilets leak at the rate of 20 to 40 litres per hour? That could mean 200 000 to 400 000 litres of water wasted per year. Simply repairing a leak could shrink your water footprint significantly without changing your habits at all.

Your water meter is a good place to start, but calculating your water footprint takes a whole lot more than measuring what comes out of your tap or into your toilet. Food production, the clothing on your back, daily paper use, the machines you use every day; they all have their own water footprint that is passed on to you when you consume them.  

Measuring every aspect of daily living is what inspired the water footprint concept created by A.K. Chapagain and A.Y. Hoekstra from the UNESCO-IHE Institute for Water Education. They devised a calculator to help individuals, corporations and communities determine their total water footprint.  

You can take the test on the Water Footprint Network website. Play around with adjusting certain items (like the length of your showers or how much meat you consume) to see how small changes can make an impact on your water footprint.

If you find your water footprint too large for your liking, there are several ways to cut back your water consumption. Aside from the standard ‘turn the tap off while brushing your teeth’ or ‘install a low flow toilet or shower head’, here are a few green tips to decrease the weight of your water footprint.

  • Cut out (or limit) coffee and meat because both of these require significant water to produce. According to the Water Footprint Network, a small (125 ml) cup of coffee has an average global water footprint of 130 litres of water – that’s more than 1100 drops of water to produce one drop of coffee. Tea, by comparison, requires only 30 litres of water per cup.
  • Rinse fruits and veggies that require washing all at once when you get home from shopping. Create a shallow bath in the sink, rinse them then pop them in the fridge ready to eat. And when you’re ready to eat them, consider steaming over boiling – you’ll use a fraction of the water and retain more nutrients.
  • Don’t buy into the myth that washing by hand uses less water – a dishwasher uses 30 to 45 litres per cycle which is about the same as each round of hand washing. So, running a full dishwasher once a day is better than several sessions by hand.
  • Keep showers to less than 6 minutes and limit bath levels to half a tub - these two options use about the same amount of water.

Also, check out these tips on reducing water while still having Green, Green Grass!

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Sources:

The Water Footprint Network: http://www.waterfootprint.org

Environment Canada: http://www.ec.gc.ca/eau-water/default.asp?lang=En&n=FF94FEEB-1

Central Kootenay Regional District: http://www.rdck.bc.ca/environmental/water/water_quick_facts.html