How much water does it take to make consumer goods?

Joseph Bergen and Nicki Huang, two graduate school students from Harvard Graduate School of Design, created an online interactive map that shows people in different locations how much water consumer goods in their region use. With the help of Pacific Institute these two students went on to develop a map that allows you to click on different countries and different consumer products to compare and contrast the embodied water content, as well as the water usage and accessibility. Moving your mouse around on the map  you can compare one country profile with another country profile for products or overall water supply. Also, you can print labels for each product embodied water count and used it as a reminder of your water usage and accessibility. This project has developed into a new trend of developing a water footprint and some of the reasoning behind why are listed below
Mind-Blowing Stats on Embedded water:

  1. One cup of coffee has 1120 (x 50 gallons) of water per cup. = 56,000 gal
  2. A pair of leather shoes has 16,600 (x 50 gal’s) of water per pair= 830,000 gal
  3. A Microchip has 16,000 (x 50 gallon’s) of water per chip = 800,000 gal

This website is worth while checking out to give you a reality check on embodied water you unknowingly consume

Another interesting project within the same realm
Chris Hendrickson and Michael Blackhurst; two engineers from Carnegie Mellon University estimated water use among +400 industry sectors. Calculated all water inputs used for these interrelated industries to shed light on the total amount of water that goes into the manufacturing of consumer products. Their work was published in the Feb. 23, 2010 edition of the journal Environmental Science & TechnologyThe results were overwhelming because more water use occurs indirectly as a result of processing (packaging, shipping, etc). 
.In Terms of Gallons of Water needed to produce $1 worth of consumer goods:

  • Cotton 1,300
  • Fruit 480
  •  Flour milling 470
  • Electricity 450
  • Vegetables and melons 280
  •  Sugar 270
  • Chicken 250
  • Dog and cat food 200
  • Cattle 190
  • Tortillas 140
  • Milk 140
  • Paint 140
This study presents growing awareness of indirect water consumption in consumer products and that being said the United Nations estimates that one-quarter of the world’s population, mostly among the poorest countries, won’t have sanitary drinking water by 2025.

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