We live on Planet Earth, but should we call it Planet Water? A view from space shows blue oceans covering more of the planet than land. Water is also found in the air and clouds, in rivers, and deep underground.
However, most of Earth’s water is salty and undrinkable. Only 2.5% of all water is freshwater and most of that is locked up in glaciers or found deep underground. In fact, less than 1% of freshwater is available to people and animals.
This precious water travels through the water cycle— raining down from clouds, flowing in rivers and the ocean, or seeping into the ground to emerge again as springs. This freshwater sustains all plants and animals living on land, in rivers, and lakes. Did you know that our bodies are made of 60% water too?
Water In Our Daily Lives
We drink water, cook with it, and use it to bathe. We flush our toilets and wash our clothes with water.
Growing food takes up water. Meat requires even more water than plant-based foods since both the animal and its feed use water. It takes 660 gallons to produce one hamburger, 162 gallons to make a turkey sandwich, and just 21 gallons for a salad!
We also need water to turn on our lights. The electricity that comes into our homes may have been produced from hydropower plants. Even fossil fuel-based power plants that burn coal, oil, or gas to generate energy use enormous amounts of water for their operation. Renewable energy systems from solar and wind don’t need water to operate but do need water to manufacture the solar panels and wind turbines.
The production of goods like clothes, toys, books, and computers uses water. Did you know that a pair of jeans takes over 2,000 gallons of water! You can find out how much water you consume using this Water Footprint Calculator.
Use Water Wisely!
All around the world, people need water. Some people have to walk to get it or carry heavy containers on their heads. Some people only have dirty water and must boil it to avoid sickness.
Other people have so much water that they don’t even think about it. Water comes out of the tap inside their homes. Some leave the tap running while they brush their teeth. Some keep a lawn vibrant green under a hot summer sun, and in fact, water may even run off yards into the street.
With a limited supply of water on Earth, it is important that we all use water wisely. We can reduce our water footprint by choosing to eat less beef. Eating chicken for meat and more plant-based foods saves enormous amounts of water. Also, reducing and recycling our things makes a big impact. Instead of buying new products, we can shop at thrift stores, swap clothes with friends and family, and fix things.
Check out the water footprint of different foods below, and more resources in the Side Notes. The next article in the series looks at water use in our homes.
Image credit: weneedwater.org