Ever heard of something called a “water footprint”? Neither had we, until recently. By now many of us know what a “carbon footprint” is, so puzzling out the general meaning of “water footprint” probably won’t be that difficult. But here’s a specific definition we found on the Water Footprint Network website:
“The water footprint is a measure of humanity’s appropriation of fresh water in volumes of water consumed and/or polluted.”
OK … and what exactly does that mean?
“People use lots of water for drinking, cooking and washing, but even more is used for growing our food and for making our clothing, cars or computers. The water footprint measures the amount of water used to produce each of the goods and services we use. It can be measured for a single process, such as growing rice, for a product, such as a pair of jeans, for the fuel we put in our car, or for an entire multinational company. The water footprint can also tell us how much water is being consumed by a particular country.”
Water is also a major factor in the global economy. According to the World Economic Forum:
“Water is an astonishingly complex and subtle force in an economy. It is the single constraint on the expansion of every city, and bankers and corporate executives have cited it as the only natural limit to economic growth.”
In America, the average water footprint per person per year is 2,842 cubic meters. That’s enough water to fill an Olympic-sized swimming pool. According to the United Nations, global water use is growing at twice the rate of population growth. Unless this trend is reversed, they say, two-thirds of the global population will face water “stress” by 2025.
So, go pour yourself a nice, refreshing glass of aqua and stay tuned for more. This is a very deep subject—and we’ve just scratched the surface …