Calculating Your Water Footprint: Raising Awareness Through Technology

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What is your water footprint for the day?  You might be able to give a pretty accurate guess of the amount of direct water you have used today through drinking or showering, but what about the amount of indirect water?  Are you aware of how much water was used to produce that can of soda you had with lunch, raise the cow that became the burger you ate, produce your jeans, sneakers, or t-shirt? You might be surprised to learn that the production of a pair of cotton jeans consumes 1,800 gallons of water.  And that burger…producing half a pound of beef requires approximately 850 gallons of water.

Everything we consume and produce contains both direct and indirect water, and as consumers in a world facing increased water scarcity, we need to be aware of our water footprint.  But how can academics communicate this information to the public and raise awareness without our eyes glazing over?  Fortunately the spread of the internet and the abundance of smart phones has encouraged the creation of a number of apps and programs to help us calculate our water footprint and influence our spending choices. Below is a list of some of the popular calculators, apps and games. Have you tried one of the programs below or other footprint tools? Let us know by leaving a comment below!

Online Water Footprint Calculators

WaterFootprint.org created a tool to help you calculate your water footprint based on food consumption, indoor domestic use, outdoor domestic use, and industrial good consumption.  The extended calculator requires a bit of information, but provides you with information on your total water footprint per year, a breakdown of your water footprint (food, industrial, domestic), and a further breakdown of your food footprint (cereal, fruit, vegetable, meat, etc.).

National Geographic uses a more graphic intensive approach to calculate water use in your household, diet, energy use, and shopping/services.  This calculator would be great for family use (broad consumer awareness also begins with kids).

H2O Conserve Calculator is focused on the United States and calculates the water footprint on a household basis through similar questions to the other calculators.

iPhone Apps

Water Aflamed takes the water footprint concept to the grocery store. By using the app, you can find out how many gallons of water were needed to grow that bunch of bananas from Brazil and use that information to steer towards smaller-footprint items.

Virtual Water is an interactive infographic that tells you how much water was needed to produce the food and beverages you consume.

eLabel is an app that rates products and service based on four criteria: biodiversity, carbon footprint, packaging & waste, and nutrition & health.

Online Games

The River Basin Game was created by the University of Twente in the Netherlands. Players compete for access to water and resources.

DiscoverWater.org is a website for kids that explores the role water plays in our lives through games and interactive programs.

12 thoughts on “Calculating Your Water Footprint: Raising Awareness Through Technology

  1. Pingback: Increasing Water Efficiency & Management in the Face of Global Scarcity | Studentreporter

  2. This is a great tool for many to use and be aware of their consumption patterns, really liked playing around with it. Thanks for sharing

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  4. Lindsay – Thanks for including the H2O Conserve Water Footprint Calculator in your coverage. You can also find water-saving tips and other water-related resources on the website.

    Feel free to check our Ecocentric blog where we “connect food, water and energy,” an multidisciplinary approach that might interest readers (http://www.ecocentricblog.org/). A post I did last year fits with the theme of your blog post entitled, “A World of Water Footprints”: http://www.ecocentricblog.org/2011/04/13/a-world-of-water-footprints/

    Finally, here’s a great example of water awareness-raising technology at work that starts on World Water Day 2012 (March 22) and runs for one month: A global groundwater visualization map in NYC’s Times Square called HeadsUP!: http://headsuptimessquare.com/

    • You are welcome Kai. The footprint calculator is a great public tool that will hopefully bring about awareness about water footprints. Thanks for the blog info above…I’ll be sure to check it out!

  5. This is interesting, but the awareness works when you can define a limit for water consumption. Without that, it’s just like thousands of other apps…..Nothing more.

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