Water Footprint: What is Your Footprint?

Email: samain_afr@yahoo.com

Received 25 October 2013; received in revised form 3 November 2013; accepted 12 December 2013

When starting the morning with a cup of tea or coffee, do you realize how much water it takes to make it? Apparently it takes 140 liters of water to make a cup of coffee! And that is not just to fill and wash the cup, but to grow, process and transport the beans. On the other hand, a cup of tea costs only 34 liters of water. The write up does not discuss the pros and cons of drinking tea or coffee, but rather poses if we realize the hidden environmental costs of what we eat, drink or wear.

Water Footprint 1Water Footprint 2


No doubt that I am talking about the ecological footprint where water footprint plays a vital role. Now, what is Water Footprint?

The Water Footprint of a product is the volume of freshwater required to produce that product, taking into account the volume of water consumed and polluted in the different steps of the supply chain. It is an indicator that looks at both the direct and indirect water use of a consumer or producer.

Water Footprint 3


Here are few other interesting examples of product water footprint:

  • To process 1 kg Beef it costs 15,415 lifters of water
  • A large Banana (200 gm) costs 160 litres of water
  • A Cotton shirt (250 gm) costs 2,500 litres of water

Every day we are leaving giant Water Footprints on this environment, without realizing the amount of water that may be reserved for our daily use. Statistics show that only 2.5 per cent of the Earth’s water is fresh water. Of that 2.5 per cent, 60 per cent is trapped in glaciers and ice waters, 10 per cent is surface water and 30 per cent is ground water, which in some cases is so deep that it becomes out of our reach. According to the WHO-UNICEF, 1 billion people in the world do not have access to safe water. This is roughly one in eight of the world’s population. In Africa, two out of five people lack clean water.

The Water Footprint of humanity has exceeded sustainable levels at several places and is unequally distributed among people. Sadly, we do not realize how much water is spent to bring our favorite food to the plate or to make the clothes we buy.

Extensive information about Water Footprints of communities and businesses will help us understanding how we can achieve a more sustainable and equitable use of fresh water.

So the next time we buy a new shirt or make a cup of coffee, we will know that it left its footprint on the environment before making it to the store or to our kitchen.

Useful References

1. Discussion on water footprint. Available at – www.waterfootprint.org/

2. Fresh water initiative. Available at- http://environment.nationalgeographic.com/environment/freshwater/about-freshwater-initiative/

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