Our planet is called the blue planet because its surface is covered with water by 70 %. The human body consists by 72 % of water. Without water we can’t live. Water is used for energy, food and transport so whoever controls water controls the world. Nature however is the true master and very now and then we are reminded by her power when a little snow stops our technological society from functioning or a Tsunami devastates a whole country. Reason enough to look at water consumption in the context of eco friendliness, both, on private and professional level.
When we talk about water we have to distinguish between real and virtual water consumption. The virtual-water content of a product is the volume of freshwater used to produce the product, measured at the place where the product was actually produced (production-site definition) or the volume of water that would have been required to produce the product at the place where the product is consumed (consumption-site definition). The real-water content of products is generally negligible if compared to the virtual-water content.
German national water footprint
In the past years, the water use in German households as well as in the industrial sector has declined constantly. This trend is very welcome and has to be encouraged in the future. But this amount of water only represents a small portion of the total water the Germans consume on a daily basis.
The total water footprint of German consumers is 159.5 cubic kilometres of water per year. With a population of currently 82.2 million, each citizen consumes 5,288 litres of water each day, and only a small portion of it for drinking, cooking or other household activities.
The biggest amount of this water is hidden in the food or products that are consumed each day. About half of the German agricultural water footprint is made up by imported products or food. That means that by importing those goods, water in virtual form was also imported from the producing countries. Germany has thereby left its water footprint in those countries. The imported goods with the highest water footprint are – in descending order – coffee, cocoa, oilseeds, cotton, pork, soybeans, beef, milk, nuts and sunflowers. The biggest water footprint of Germany is left in Brazil, Ivory Coast, France, the Netherlands, the USA, Indonesia, in Ghana, India, Turkey and Denmark respectively, also in descending order.
Private persons can reduce their water footprint by changing diet and lifestyle. Using less water in direct consumption, consuming less (or preferably no) meat, wearing clothes made by organic cotton… You heard all this in one of my previous blog posts and you’ll realize that consuming less “blue” means being more “green”. In order to get a feeling for the amounts of (direct and indirect) water consumption throughout your daily life and because a picture often says more than a thousand words, have a look at this infographic http://awesome.good.is/transparency/web/trans0309walkthisway.html
If you would like to see more examples for the amount of water consumed in the production of everyday food products, you have to see the poster by the German designer Timm Kekeritz. It was created in 2007 in Berlin. For all i-Phone users: you can even get an app based on the data used for this poster. (For more information on the poster and the app, check out http://virtualwater.eu/ )
In the next week, we will look at the professional level and see how companies are using water and what they can do about the current problems.