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June 14, 2017

Calculate Water Footprint: Raising Awareness Through Web Technology

What is your water footprint for the day?  You might be able to give a pretty accurate guess of the amount of direct water you have used today through drinking or showering, but what about the amount of indirect water?  Are you aware of how much water was used to produce that can of soda you had with lunch, raise the cow that became the burger you ate, produce your jeans, sneakers, or t-shirt? You might be surprised to learn that the production of a pair of cotton jeans consumes 1,800 gallons of water.  And that burger…producing half a pound of beef requires approximately 850 gallons of water.

Everything we consume and produce contains both direct and indirect water, and as consumers in a world facing increased water scarcity, we need to be aware of our water footprint.  But how can academics communicate this information to the public and raise awareness without our eyes glazing over?  Fortunately the spread of the internet and the abundance of smart phones has encouraged the creation of a number of apps and programs to help us calculate our water footprint and influence our spending choices. Below is a list of some of the popular calculators.

WaterFootprint.org created a tool to help you calculate your water footprint based on food consumption, indoor domestic use, outdoor domestic use, and industrial good consumption.  The extended calculator requires a bit of information, but provides you with information on your total water footprint per year, a breakdown of your water footprint (food, industrial, domestic), and a further breakdown of your food footprint (cereal, fruit, vegetable, meat, etc.).

National Geographic uses a more graphic intensive approach to calculate water use in your household, diet, energy use, and shopping/services.  This calculator would be great for family use (broad consumer awareness also begins with kids).

H2O Conserve Calculator is focused on the United States and calculates the water footprint on a household basis through similar questions to the other calculators.

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