When water is readily accessible, it’s easy to take for granted. Most Americans don’t give a second thought to the water they use to shower, bathe, do laundry or cook—much less the water that is required for their cars, appliances or in virtually every other aspect of their daily lives.
But the world is facing a new reality. Today, nearly one billion people lack access to a clean, steady water supply; by 2050, that number is predicted to reach three billion. Without clean water, communities in water-scarce regions face food insecurity, disease, poverty, gender imbalances and inadequate education. And because of climate change, irresponsible water use and rapid population growth, more and more regions of the world are being confronted with water scarcity.
Sustainable land use, especially in agriculture, is a huge part of the solution. But you can also do your part–especially important if you live in a water-scarce area—by making changes to your daily routine.
The water used to grow and process food accounts for 50 percent of the average American’s water footprint.
- Eat less meat and dairy. The production of a single serving of chicken requires about 90 gallons of water; a 3 oz serving of beef takes about 338 gallons of water; and a single serving of pork requires about 108 gallons of water.
- Consider the distance. The transportation of food requires a great deal of water; when you choose local foods, you’re eliminating many of these hidden water expenditures.
- Go vegan, even if just a couple days a week. People who don’t eat meat or dairy save 600 gallons of water per day, compared with the average American omnivore.
- When you buy products grown in the tropics (like coffee, tea, chocolate or bananas), be sure they feature our green frog seal. Rainforest Alliance Certified™ farms prioritize water conservation and the protection of streams and waterways.
- Drink out of reusable bottles and use the same water glass all day long. You’ll be minimizing the water required to make plastic and doing fewer dishes.
At the Store
Every time you spend a dollar on clothes, you’re effectively tossing 23 gallons of water down the drain.
- Buy less, shop at vintage or used clothing stores, or swap clothing. The average American goes through 35 pounds of new cotton clothing per year—and a single pound of cotton requires an estimated 100 gallons of water to produce.
- Carry reusable bags. The plastic used in a single plastic bag requires one gallon of water to manufacture.
- Consider the distance. Like food, the transportation of clothing requires a great deal of water.
- Investigate organic options. They can use less water—but it all depends on where they come from. Rain-fed organic cotton from Brazil takes just 10.6 gallons of water per pound to manufacture compared with the 782 gallons of water required to grow organic cotton in California.
Just five percent of your water footprint comes from home use—but in arid regions, every drop counts.
- Skip baths in favor of short showers and turn off the faucet when shaving, lathering, etc. The simple act of shutting off the faucet during your morning shower can save 75 gallons of water per week.
- Do laundry only when you have a full load, apply the appropriate water settings and upgrade to energy- and water-efficient washers and dryers. (Better yet: air-dry your clothing and linens.)
- Check your house for leaks, which can result in the loss of 10,000 gallons of water a year. That’s enough water to fill a swimming pool.
- Waiting for the water to heat up to shower? Catch the cold water in a bucket and use it to flush, rinse dishes and water plants.
- Recycle. You can save 3.5 gallons of water just by recycling a pound of paper (about the average weight of a daily newspaper).
- Minimize your energy use. Americans use an estimated 670 gallons of water a day to support their energy habits.
- Calculate your household water use with this handy tool and challenge yourself to lower your impact.