Down the Drain: What's Your Water Footprint?

To be environmentally correct, you need to think about not just your carbon footprint but also your water footprint

Monday, June 15, 2009

As the planet heats up, water shortages are becoming an important environmental issue. You've been told to reduce your carbon footprint—but what about your water footprint? To help explain this new means of measuring consumption, we turn to Matthew McDermott, Senior Writer for Treehugger.

Continue reading to see the water footprint of some popular foods and beverages.

Fruits, Vegetables & Grains

If you want to really reduce the water footprint of your food, then choose a diet emphasizing fruits, veggies and grains: it's healthier, cheaper and better for carbon emissions, too. But even here there are some big variations:
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

Meat & Dairy

This is where water intensity really starts increasing. If you want to reduce the water footprint of your diet, this is where you want to really cut back:

Eggs — 573 gallons
Chicken — 815 gallons
Cheese — 896 gallons
Pork — 1630 gallons
Butter — 2044 gallons
Beef — 2500-5000 gallons (Global figures for the water intensity of beef vary so significantly that an average isn't particularly informative, so a range of figures is given)


You want to quench your thirst while keeping your water footprint as low as possible? Tap water is probably best. Here's the water footprint of some other beverages:

Tea (8oz) — 7 gallons
Beer, barley (8oz) — 36 gallons
Coffee (8oz) — 29 gallons
Wine (8oz) — 58 gallons


Matthew McDermott


Melissa Locker

Comments [2]


Is there anything the public can do about reduciing water footprint as a nation? I tried to cut down my water consumption, but I have a feeling that more can be done if the govt is willing to invest money on infrustructure and give incentive to industries to do the following:
1. recyling fresh water as in CA
2. using seawater for toilet
3. using water saving toilet (most places in Japan has that kind of toilet)
4. Water is just too cheap now. I understand by increasing the price of water it will make poor families suffer. But if the price remain cheap, ppl won't try to save water. Some type of tax policy may help. (we are living in a 1900 sq ft house and we are paying only $10 per month for water)
5. This is probably just remotely related, but we should really cut down on plastic consumption and making.

Jun. 15 2009 08:44 PM

How about monitoring how you do things like wash dishes and clothes? I think those numbers above are distortions - you have to specify how the livestock are raised and consider the entire context of their lives in our environment. I can see how beef would have that 2500 gallon number in a confinement operation but in a grass fed situation, not that simple.

Jun. 15 2009 11:44 AM

Leave a Comment

Email addresses are required but never displayed.