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  1. 8/17/2012 WHAT IS YOUR WATER FOOTPRINT?
  2. We are all familiar with the concept of a carbon footprint, but have you given any thought to your water footprint?  Embedded in every single product we consume is water.  Just finished up your morning cup of coffee?  Brewing that single cup requires 37 gallons of water, when the full costs of production and transport are taken into consideration.  How about that package of M&M’s you were just snaking on?  304 gallons of water went into making that.  And that bottle of water you just grabbed as you headed out the door?  This irony shouldn’t be lost on anyone:  it takes 1.85 gallons of water to manufacture the plastic for the bottle in the average commercial bottle of water.
     
    What's a Water Footprint?
     
    A water footprint is the total of how much water we consume.  It's more than just what you use brushing your teeth, washing dishes, or flushing the toilet.  Water is embedded everywhere in our lives, including all the goods we consume and the services we use.  It's called embodied water.  What do we mean by embodied water?  Well, it takes a lot of water to dye the cotton your t-shirt is made of, and far more water than that to raise the cotton in the first place.  That means your t-shirt has a certain amount of water embedded in it by virtue of its creation, and that is part of your water footprint.  The food we eat all has embedded water as well, and what we eat changes the size of our footprints.  For instance, it takes far more water to raise that 12 ounce steak on one side of your place than it does to raise the steamed broccoli on the other side of your plate.
     
    Adding up not only our more obvious water consumption like showering or watering lawns, but also the water consumption we don't see, from that used for everything from packaging to the products we use during our daily morning routine, will give us our total water footprint.  But exactly how big is an average water footprint?
     
    Your water footprint is less an exact science and more of a conservation tool designed to increase consumer awareness.  Developed in 2002 at the UNESCO-IHE Institute for Water Education in the Netherlands, water footprinting was designed to track direct and indirect use of water with the intent of comparing regions across the globe.
     
    To calculate a water footprint, two indirect water usage components - agricultural and industrial - are added to the total direct water consumption of a nation.  It is not surprising to note that China, India and the United States have the world’s largest water footprints, accounting for approximately 39% of all water consumption on the planet.
     
    How Can I Calculate My Own Water Footprint?
     
    There's a handy calculator from H2O Conserve (www.h2oconserve.org) that can give you a gist.  It isn't precise, but can give you a starting point.  The calculator asks things like what state you live in, household water habits and the types of faucets you have, and the types of appliances you have like dishwashers and washing machines.  It totals up your footprint, then gives you recommendations on where you'd be able to cut down on water consumption.
     
    We live in a watery world, with the average American lifestyle fueled by nearly 2,000 gallons of H2O a day.
     
    What may come as a surprise is that very little of that - only five percent - runs through toilets, taps, and garden hoses at home.  Nearly 95 percent of your water footprint is hidden in the food you eat, energy you use, products you buy, and services you rely on.
     
    The more we save, the more water we leave for healthy ecosystems and a sustainable future.