How much water does it take to make a cotton t-shirt?
About 2,700 liters for a 250 grams t-shirt
How much do we consume to take a 10-minute shower every day?
On average, 120 liters.
These numbers tell us that every action we take, every product we use involves water consumption that has a significant impact on the environment and that should not be neglected, especially in a time of great water scarcity such as the one that is occurring on our planet due to of climate change.
According to the United Nations World Report on the Development of Water Resources 2021, periods of great and prolonged drought, also due to the increase in global warming, are in fact among the extreme environmental events that increasingly damage humans and the environment. In the period 2009-2019, water shortages affected over 100 million people, killing more than 2,000 people and causing over $ 10 billion in economic losses.
There is no time to waste: it’s important to start implementing concrete actions to safeguard our planet and humanity.
Because water is a resource to be protected
Water is a precious asset, not only for protecting the environment but for the survival of mankind. It’s a renewable resource, but its availability is limited, so it must be used sparingly and carefully.
Although water covers almost 70% of our planet, the “fresh” water – which can be used for home and production activities – represents only 2.5% of its total volume. What remains, or 97.5%, is salt water that comes from seas and oceans. But that’s not all: of the small percentage of fresh water available, man has access to only 1% of the world total, since in part it forms glaciers and snowfields or is trapped underground.
But there is more. How does man use this amount of fresh water?
According to the World Resource Institute, 70% is used for irrigation, agriculture and livestock for the food sector, 19% is for industrial activities and 10% for domestic use. Numbers that could become catastrophic if the way in which we produce and consume is not transformed in the various countries of the world, aiming for greater sustainability.
Even though we are in a global water emergency scenario, the United Nations Organization argues that the percentage of fresh water destined for food and cultivation of land is set to increase even more in the future, estimating that the global population will have need about 60% more food by 2050 and that the production of food from irrigated agriculture will increase by more than 50% over the same period. All this considering that fresh water is in short supply globally every day: with over 2 billion people living in water-stressed areas and about 3.4 billion people – 45% of the world’s population – who do not have access to safely managed sanitation facilities. Alarming forecasts also concern industry, where the global demand for water, between 2000 and 2050, could lead to a 400% increase in demand for the manufacturing sector alone. According to the United Nations, according to independent studies, by 2030 the world will have to face a global water deficit of 40%.
Consume less water and more responsibly
The differences between the amount of water consumed for industrial and daily use in different countries around the world are often enormous, depending on specific environmental, infrastructural, economic and social factors. At a European level, for example, Italy ranks as one of the largest consumers, with over 9 billion m3 of water withdrawn every year for civil use (+ 9% compared to Spain, + 29% compared to France and +39 % compared to Germany) and with withdrawals for potable use that reach 152.4 m3 per inhabitant (almost double the EU and France average and 2.5 times Germany), as noted in the 2021 White Paper produced by The European House – Ambrosetti.
In addition to this figure, consumption from the industrial system in the various production sectors is also added: Italian manufacturing consumes about 3.8 billion m3 of water, with an average of 5.9 liters per euro of production. If we also consider the waste due to lack of maintenance or the aging of the national distribution network, the problem of water shortage takes on even more worrying proportions: just think that in 2020 in Italy 36.2% of the water introduced was lost in the distribution channels of the territory.
The scarcity of water and how it is consumed is therefore a problem that must be addressed urgently, on several levels. On the one hand, it’s important to raise public awareness on issues that affect society as a whole, from the need for a more sustainable production of goods and services, to the need for a more correct and controlled management of water resources in the places where we live. From companies to institutions, everyone has a fundamental role in helping to improve the impact that man has on the planet, starting actions that lead to a long-term social and economic transformation. On the other hand, we must never forget what each of us, as a conscious and responsible citizen, can start doing every day, trying to rethink our personal habits in a more “green” way.
We learn to reduce our water footprint
Knowing your water footprint and promoting a more sustainable use of products and natural resources is the starting point for starting to consume less and better, promoting virtuous behavior. But what is meant by water footprint? In general, it is the amount of water that each of us consumes or wastes. For example, when it carries out a specific activity – from washing to cooking, from watering the plants to doing laundry.
To reduce your water impact on the environment, it’s therefore important to use the water that reaches our homes in moderation, adopting good daily practices. From a study conducted by ENEA – the Italian National Agency for New Technologies, Energy and Sustainable Economic Development – comes a list of useful behaviors for combating daily water waste and fighting the water emergency. For example, closing the taps every time we brush our teeth allows us to save up to 30 liters of water; the use of the dishwasher, when fully loaded, consumes about 15 liters of water compared to the 40 liters that are used to wash dishes by hand; choosing a shower instead of a bathtub, on the other hand, helps to save up to 1,200 liters of water per year.
This, however, is only one of the ways in which we all consume water: because every product we buy has a water footprint, which derives from the amount of water that is consumed, directly or indirectly, to make it. For a new pair of jeans, for example, you have to add up the amount of water needed in each processing step necessary to get to the final product – from the cultivation of cotton, to weaving, from dyeing to packaging. In all, it takes about 8,000 liters of water to produce a pair of our favorite jeans.
The food is no less important: the water footprint of 200 grams of beef is equivalent to 47 showers of 8 minutes, while for its processing a quantity of water is required 4 times greater than that used for the same quantity of chicken meat. Vegetables have an even smaller water footprint, as does tea compared to coffee. Numbers that are worth a concrete reflection on the sustainability of our lifestyle and on what choices we could make to improve it.
Consuming less water, preserving the environment and humanity from the consequences of the water emergency of today and the future, means starting from the awareness of how each of us impacts on the Planet to start acting accordingly, alone and all together. But where can we start?
By the numbers: the site of the non-profit association Water Footprint Network provides a real calculator of your water footprint, useful for evaluating your water consumption and consequently changing some of your habits, trying to choose with greater wisdom and a sense of responsibility what to consume and how.
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