Water footprints beneficial for conservation

March 12, 2013

The Wes-Tex Groundwater Conservation District hopes to remind everyone about how individuals can be alert in their own water-saving efforts by examining the "water footprint" of items used daily.

Recently, water conservation has been a widely-discussed topic, even at the state level. However, the Wes-Tex Groundwater Conservation District hopes to remind everyone about how individuals can be alert in their own water-saving efforts.
One way to conserve water is by examining the "water footprint" of items used daily. According to siemens.com, a water footprint is the "total amount of freshwater used directly and indirectly by consumers and manufacturers."
An instance of direct water usage is when a faucet is turned on; indirect water usage is the total of water used to produce, grow or manufacture the items that are used.
The online publication TreeHugger examined the water footprint of common food items through research conducted by waterfootprint.org, highlighting global averages of the gallons of water consumed for each pound of food.
According to Mat McDermott, the author of the piece, a diet full of fruits, vegetables and grains can help dramatically reduce a person's water footprint regarding food. The following is a list of fruits, vegetables and grains and their respective water footprints (from least to greatest) per pound:
• Lettuce -- 15 gallons
• Tomatoes -- 22 gallons
• Cabbage -- 24 gallons
• Cucumber -- 28 gallons
• Potatoes -- 30 gallons
• Oranges -- 55 gallons
• Apples -- 83 gallons
• Bananas -- 102 gallons
• Corn -- 107 gallons
• Peaches or Nectarines -- 142 gallons
• Wheat Bread -- 154 gallons
• Mango -- 190 gallons
• Avocado -- 220 gallons
• Tofu -- 244 gallons
• Groundnuts -- 368 gallons
• Rice -- 403 gallons
• Olives -- 522 gallons
• Chocolate -- 2847 gallons
Other food items, like meat and dairy, show a significant increase in water footprints (also per pound).
• Eggs -- 573 gallons
• Chicken -- 815 gallons
• Cheese -- 896 gallons
• Pork -- 1630 gallons
• Butter -- 2044 gallons
• Beef -- 2500-5000 gallons (a range of figures is given due to the fact that global figures for the water intensity of beef vary rather significantly)
According to an article published in "The Professional Nutritionist" by former U.S. Representative Tony Coelho of California, about 80% of all water used in the United States is for agricultural purposes. A typical American meal, though low in price, is very costly in water.
A quarter-pound hamburger, the bun, fries and a soft drink will amass 1,427 gallons of water. A more formal meal--consisting of chicken, an eight-ounce baked potato with a pat of butter, green beans, salad with no dressing, and dinner roll with a pat of butter add up to 670 gallons of water.
But when the chicken is replace by an order of steak, the meal totals to 2,869 gallons of water; the steak alone makes up 2,607 gallons.
In addition, McDermott's article also discusses drinks. Beverages show some decrease in water footprints, but tap water was cited as the obvious drink to keep a person's water footprint low.
• Tea (8 oz.) -- 7 gallons
• Coffee (8 oz.) -- 29 gallons
• To-go latte -- 53 gallons
However, another article in the online publication by Brian Merchant suggests that while the latte is a little over 50 gallons, that number does not include that water footprint of the plastic lid, sleeve and cup used to contain the to-go drink. Furthermore, an individual bottled water takes an average of 1.85 gallons of water to manufacture the plastic container that holds the water.
Also in the article, Merchant outlines the water footprint of items seen in everyday life across America. For a simple outfit consisting of a pair of jeans and cotton t-shirt, around 1,800 gallons and 400 gallons of water, respectively, is needed to grow the right amount of cotton for the items of clothing.
And to make a car, an estimated 39,000 gallons of water are used, though it is unclear whether the 2,072 gallons for tires are part of the estimation. Various materials were also listed, as follows:
• Lumber (single board) -- 5.4 gallons (to grow enough wood)
• Paint (one gallon) -- 13 gallons
• Plastic (one pound) -- 24 gallons
• Synthetic Rubber (one pound) -- 55 gallons
• Cotton (one pound) -- 101 gallons
• Wool (one pound) -- 101 gallons
• Cement (one ton) -- 1,360 gallons
• Steel (one ton) -- 62,000 gallons
To obtain more information on water conservation methods, contact Dale Adams, the general manager of Wes-Tex Groundwater Conservation District (GCD) in Nolan County at 236-6033. Adams can also be reached by visiting his office located inside the Extension office on the third floor of the Nolan County Courthouse.

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