Water is the most crucial life source – without it, humanity would cease to exist. In the West, we often take this resource for granted, forgetting how much water we waste when flushing the toilet, producing clothes, and growing food.
To better understand your impact on water waste, you can evaluate the size of your water footprint. Here’s how to do so.
Your water footprint reflects the amount of clean water you utilize based on your consumption patterns. Purchasing books, homes, cars, and furniture all affect the size of your footprint. The average daily water consumption is 5,000 liters (1,320 gallons) per person.
The larger our water footprint is, the more waste we produce. Water waste contributes to various environmentally degrading effects. To effectively reduce the amount of waste produced by your consumption patterns, it’s essential first to evaluate the harm it causes.
Harms of Water Waste
As consumers waste more water, their contribution to pollution increases. For example, as your demand as a consumer for new clothes increases, fast fashion companies utilize large amounts of water to meet this request. When these businesses use more water, they increase the amount of contaminated water released after production.
Many countries have strict water waste management practices that companies must abide by. But other regions of the world have looser regulations. Some companies dump their contaminated water waste into local rivers or lakes for quick disposal.
When contaminated fluids reach the ocean, it causes adverse effects to the aquatic ecosystem. Pesticides used in cotton growth are disposed of in fast-fashion water mismanagement, ending up in the sea. These additives contribute to algal blooms.
As algae take over in an aquatic habitat, it consumes mass amounts of oxygen to support its growth. The overconsumption of ocean oxygen is known as eutrophication, which suffocates plants and marine species. A dead zone develops when eutrophication fully depletes the element, and the region becomes uninhabitable.
When dead zones take over regions of the sea, the entire marine ecosystem suffers. Without a good home, many species end up in areas with little food or increased predators. This leaves aquatic life in a vulnerable state, affecting their existence and our food supply.
An increase in contaminated water waste places humans in a vulnerable state as well. An excess of contaminants in significant bodies of water throws off the pH balance, creating an environment for pathogens to grow.
Cholera, typhoid, and giardia develop in regions with excessive water waste. These contaminants leak into our water supply, causing the development of illnesses. You can reduce your contribution to water pollution by shrinking your footprint.
How to Shrink Your Footprint
Once you calculate your water footprint, you can explore how to cut back on your waste-producing consumption patterns. From diet to home maintenance, various actions affect the size and impact of our footprint.
One way to limit your footprint is to reuse water. When you recycle water, you intentionally capture unpurified water for repurposing. One may utilize rain, snowmelt, saltwater, and gray water to filter and reuse as drinking water or other residential uses.
Water purification systems can reduce one’s water waste and pollution, shrinking your footprint. These systems could also be leveraged to bring clean drinking water to the one-sixth of the globe that currently lacks access.
Eat Less Meat
It takes 15,000 liters of water to produce one kilogram of beef, making it the most water-intensive protein source. To sustain a healthy diet, one may replace beef with lentils, peas, and beans, which utilize less water and provide bioavailable protein.
You may also substitute beef with chicken if you are resistant to a vegetarian diet but still want to shrink your water footprint.
Whatever beef substitute you choose, ensure that it is locally produced. The farther meat and produce travel to reach your neighborhood market, the more fuel they require. Gasoline production wastes water and other resources, so reducing your geographical footprint can also reduce your water and ecological footprint.
Buy Second-Hand Clothes
Like we evaluated above, the fashion industry is water-exhaustive. It takes 2,700 liters to produce one cotton t-shirt. The more new clothes we buy, the more water fashion companies waste.
To challenge this environmental issue, you can buy second-hand goods. When you buy used clothes, you distribute the initial water use over an extended period rather than doubling it with a new purchase.
You can also alter the clothes you already have to fit new trends, fix functional issues, and reduce your contribution to waste.
Homes lose 10,000 gallons of unused water every year from leaks. Fixing a drip may seem intuitive, but some are undetectable unless further evaluated. To limit your residential water waste, practice quarterly pipe, faucet, and hose checks to ensure all faucets and pipe junctions are secure.
Build a Sustainable Community
When it comes to challenging your routine and reducing your water consumption, many individuals struggle. Reach out to your community and discuss how you can support each other in shrinking your local footprint. Installing reuse systems in local parks and community buildings may further reduce local water use.
When you develop local encouragement and sustainable community practices, you can successfully shrink your water footprint. Remember that it may be difficult to change lifelong consumption patterns, but the planet will thank you for your efforts.