Think Fast: What is the Best Way to Conserve Water?

Is it taking shorter showers? Turning off the tap while brushing your teeth? Letting yellow mellow? While these are all good things, their impacts pale in comparison to one area of your life you may not even realize is connected to your water use. 

The largest contributor to your water footprint by far is the food you eat.

Watch this 3 minute video to find out why. (Hint: 1 liter = about 1/4 gallon)

Basically, crops take a lot of water to grow (some more than others) resulting in a water footprint of dozens to hundreds of gallons of water per pound of food. Animal products have even higher footprintsthan plant, since their footprint comes not only from the water they drink, but from the water needed to grow the crops they eat.  Processed foods have similarly large footprints since their production processes are often long and water intensive.

The diet of an average American, one of the most meat and processed food heavy diet in the world, has a water footprint of a whopping 2060 gallons of water per day! That’s equivalent to 16.5 hours of showering, or running 60 loads of laundry every day! Clearly, what you eat has an enormous impact on your personal water footprint.

So how to eat more responsibly?  Try Following these 3 General Rules.

Rule #1: Eat less meat. As discussed above, animal products – especially meats – require much more water pound per pound than plant products. While going vegetarian is great, even just opting to cut out meat one day a week (like the city of Ghent’s “Donderdag Veggiedag” every Thursday) can reduce your weekly water footprint by literally thousands of gallons. Remember, also, that cutting out meat doesn’t mean saying goodbye to protein.  There are many protein rich options – including eggs – that require much less water per calorie than meats. Even substituting beef with a less water-intensive meat like chicken can vastly reduce your water footprint.

Rule #2: Eat less processed food.  The less processed something is, the less water it generally takes to produce.  Processed foods include not only any cracker, candy, or pre-made meal, but also most non-water beverages (including coffee, soda, beer, and wine) which take, at minimum, 100x their volume produce. The added bonus of shying away from water-guzzling processed foods is that non-processed options are generally healthier for you. Choosing to conserve water in this way can also help you eat healthier.

Rule #3: When in doubt, look it up. Download the Virtual Water app for Apple or the Water Footprint appfor Android where you can look up the water footprint of a specific food.  Using these tools you can easily pick water conservative meals and keep track of your personal water foot print.

So the next time you’re looking for a meal, skip the burger and fries in favor of falafel and know you’re doing your part to conserve precious fresh water.

Click here to learn more about responsible living.
Click here to learn more about your water footprint.
Click here to see how different actions rank in fighting Climate Change