The “hidden” water we use

Green Cross has met with over 100 Italian students at the Explora Children’s Museum in Rome to discuss our “water footprints” and the vast amounts of aqua being wasted making the products that millions of people buy every day.

The event, titled “How much water does it cost me?”, was held on 10 November, 2011. It explained the “water footprint” and how much water is used to make everyday consumer products, like food and clothing. The event is part of the UNESCO Week on Education and Sustainable Development and is linked to the upcoming 20th edition of the Green Cross Italy Earth Charter Youth Contest.

Students heard how water goes into not just obvious uses, such as drinking, cooking and washing, but also the “hidden” uses of water used to make the food we eat or clothes we wear.

Italian journalist Cristiana Pulcinelli explained to the more than 120 students the importance of water and its daily uses. She stressed that large amounts of water are being wasted on materials such as cotton, a kilogram of which – equivalent of what is needed to produce a pair of jeans – consumes11,000 litres of water.

One t-shirt made from conventional cotton uses 2700 litres. One kilogram of leather, used for our shoes and bags, requires 16,000 litres of water.

Even our food is a great drain on water. Drinking one cup of coffee soaks up 140 litres of water. Producing one kilogram of beef takes 15,500 litres of water, while 1,300 litres goes into a pizza.

Green Cross Italy President Elio Pacilio says people are shocked when they learn how big their water footprints when they measure how much water goes into what they eat and wear. “Just think that rich countries use around 50 times the water that is necessary,” he says.

So, what people can do? How can people save money and reduce their water footprint? Much can be done. Some solutions include having food and clothing goods manufacturers include on their product labels precise indications about their water footprint: this would allow us to opt for more sustainable goods and foods.

In the meantime, people can start by avoiding some products. People can eat food derived from plants, which use less water than those derived from animals. Same with yogurt compared to cheese, as well as fruits compared to nuts and peanuts. There are still 884 million people worldwide who lack access to safe and clean water, while just 12% of the population waste 85% of the water planet.

Watch video: Smart Water for Green Schools project in Ghana

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