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Tips on saving water

By Felicity Kitchin

Did you know that over the last 100 years, water usage has increased at twice the rate of population growth? Over 2 billion people experience water scarcity, increasing daily. For a fascinating look at how quickly this is happening, and the global distribution of water scarcity, check out the Water Scarcity Clock[1] and maps.  The concept of peak water, developed in 2010, emphasises that we don’t have an infinite supply of accessible, usable water. As we saw when Cape Town faced Day Zero in 2018, regions can experience severe water constraints and competition for water. It’s therefore important that we manage water more sustainably, cutting our usage as much as possible, and protecting the quality of water by reducing pollution and restoring aquatic ecosystems.

Scary water facts[2]:

What can we do about it? Remember that every drop helps, even small steps make a difference overall, if we all combine to save as much water as we can.

Suggestion: Start a competition against yourself (or even better, ask friends to join you to see which household can reduce their consumption the most). Monitor your household water consumption regularly by checking the water meter or your water account. See how much you can bring it down each month.

There are several ways you can save water, both in the home, and (which we often don’t think of) through what we eat.

  1. Reduce your water consumption in your home

In the bathroom, you can do the following:

In the kitchen and laundry:

In the garden:

We don’t often think of how much water is used in producing the different things we eat. But it can make a big difference. If you want to find out how much water is used to produce different foods you eat or drink, check out this site: Once you are aware of the water footprint of what you eat, you can choose more water-efficient alternatives where possible. For example:

Food/drinkWater footprint
  Wine OR   BeerThe global average water footprint of grapes is 610 litre/kg. One kilogram of grapes gives 0.7 litre of wine, so that the water footprint of a wine is 870 litre of water per litre of wine.   The water footprint of beer is 298 litre of water per litre of beer.109 litres of water are used to produce a 125ml glass of wine.   One glass of beer (250 ml) “costs” 74 litres of water.
  Coffee OR   TeaTea uses far less water to produce than does coffee.One 250 ml cup of coffee uses 130 litres of water to produce.   A 250 ml cup of tea 27 litres of water to produce.
  MilkBut adding milk and sugar all adds up!255 litres of water is used for a 250 ml glass of milk.
    Cane sugarCane sugar, the most widely used sugar around the world, is often heavily irrigated.The water footprint of refined cane sugar is about 1780 litres per kg.
  Beef steak OR   ChickenThe global average water footprint of beef (15400 litre/kg) is much larger than that of meat from sheep (10400 litre/kg), pig (6000 litre/kg), goat (5500 litre/kg) or chicken (4300 litre/kg).

The average water footprint per calorie for beef is twenty times larger than for cereals and starchy roots. The average water footprint per gram of protein for beef is six times larger than for pulses.
2,623 litres of water are used per 170g steak. This means that every time you eat a steak you are pouring the equivalent of eight full standard bathtubs (about 300 litres each) worth of water onto your plate[1].   Compared to the 170g steak above, the same size portion of chicken requires just 734 litres of water, 3.5 times less than the steak.
  Potato OR   RiceThe global average water footprint of potato is 290 litre/kg We buy milled rice in the form of white rice or broken rice. In addition to the water used, most rice is grown in Southeast Asia and carries considerable CO2 emissions to transport.Potato chips cost 1040 litres of water per kilogram. One baked potato uses about 108 litres of water.[2]   The water footprint of the rice we use is 2500 litres of water per kg.  
  ChocolateAssuming that chocolate consists of 40% cocoa paste (with a water footprint of 24,000 litre/kg), 20% cocoa butter (34,000 litre/kg) and 40% cane sugar (1800 litre/kg), we calculate that chocolate has a water footprint of about 17,000 litre/kg.The global average water footprint of 1 kg of chocolate is 17196 litres. A 100-gram chocolate bar costs 1700 litres.

If you’re interested you can download a free guide to help assess the water footprint of what you eat –

You can also download a tool to assess the water footprint of different countries, river basins or the world here:






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