Wednesday, January 17, 2018

What’s Your Water Footprint?

February 1, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

Water footprint calculator aLong Island is unique in many ways; there’s no exception when it comes to our water supply. Unlike the freshwater steered from upstate to New York City via extensive pipes and aqueducts, Long Islanders get 100 percent of our drinking water from under our feet. We have a system of underground aquifers (water-bearing rocks) which stores our only drinking water resources.

Drawing only from what’s available beneath us means that there’s a real limit to how much water we can use. Currently, we face water challenges including saltwater intrusion, using more water than is being replenished into the system, and contamination.

Clearly, we have a responsibility to use our water wisely through conservation and efficiency. Taking shorter showers and turning off the tap are important strategies to cut down on direct water use from Long Island’s aquifers. However, much water usage is from hidden (also referred to as virtual) sources including the food we eat, the energy we use, and the products we buy. The vast majority of our water footprint — the total amount of water one uses every day — comes from these decisions and actions. As examples, it takes 713 gallons of water to produce one cotton tee shirt and 660 gallons of water are needed to produce one gallon of gasoline. All this water adds up for each person every day.

You know your shoe size, but do you know your water footprint? GRACE Communications Foundation’s new Water Footprint Calculator ( is designed to help figure out how much water you use in your daily routine, both directly and virtually, through a series of simple questions.

According to the Water Footprint Calculator, the typical American uses about 2,200 gallons of water per day. That’s a staggering amount of such a precious resource! Once we know how much we use, it’s important to focus on ways to conserve and reduce our water footprint.

Change out water hogging devices, like old toilets. The biggest water hog inside the home is the toilet. Older toilets can use five to seven gallons per flush; replacing newer low-flow models use as little as 1.6 gallons, so you save water and reduce your water bill, too.

Be smarter about sprinklers. Long Island water companies claim that the highest usage of water is at 4:00 am when many lawn sprinklers go on. Investing in a rain sensor for your system can reduce water usage by 30 percent and watering your lawn or garden every other day in the morning or evening also helps to cut back on water use. In addition, replacing thirsty shrubbery and vegetation with native plants and grasses that thrive with normal rainfall also allows you to cut back on irrigation.

Eat more vegetables. Our diet accounts for at least two-thirds of our water footprint. For example, creating a hamburger uses 660 gallons of water, so by replacing or reducing some of the meat you eat each week with vegetables and grains, you can make a big difference in saving virtual water.

Tap into the sun and wind. Typical fossil fuel power generation uses enormous amounts of energy. Investing in energy efficient or renewable home energy systems, including solar or wind, helps reduce your need for water-dependent power generation.

Shop smarter. Avoid trendy clothing and buy vintage or well-made and long-lasting pieces instead. You’ll reduce how much water is used to grow fibers and manufacture clothes.

We’ve presented just a handful of the many choices that help use less water. Collectively, consumer choices to conserve send a signal to those who make the products that we want a more sustainable future.

Water is indeed everywhere, but we also need it to do just about anything. The daily choices we make to waste less water today, whether directly through the tap or virtually, can help us make sure that there is enough for all of us now and in the future.

By Maureen Dolan Murphy and Peter Hanlon

Peter Hanlon is deputy director of programs for the GRACE Communications Foundation,

Maureen Dolan Murphy is the Executive Programs Manager with Citizens Campaign for the Environment


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