Watching our Water Weight

Watching our Water Weight
Scott Ballum
  • 11 march 2009

Amidst the debate over the multi-billion dollar bottled water industry (is it really a debate anymore?), rises another complication in our consumer relationship to water: sure, you’re bringing your own Kleen Kanteen, but how much water was used to make that? Or the jeans you’re wearing, never mind the burger you had for lunch? The Wall-Street Journal recently reported “it takes roughly 20 gallons of water to make a pint of beer, as much as 132 gallons of water to make a 2-liter bottle of soda, and about 500 gallons, including water used to grow, dye and process the cotton, to make a pair of Levi’s stonewashed jeans.”

But doesn’t all of this water recirculate back into aquifers and oceans eventually? Well, some of it does, particularly when these numbers count water supplies used to grow grain to feed livestock or irrigate farms to grow ingredients, but much of the water used in factories will re-enter the system too polluted to be reused. And perhaps the bigger issue is that a global marketplace means goods are transported hundreds of thousands of miles (more water used up here) over long periods of time before water is released back into the environment. Not a big deal for manufacturing or farming done in water-rich areas of the world, say rainy Brazil, but what about areas already enduring or approaching a drought? WSJ:

Two-thirds of the world’s population is projected to face water scarcity by 2025, according to the United Nations. In the US, water managers in 36 states anticipate shortages by 2013, a General Accounting Office report shows. Last year, Georgia lawmakers tried, unsuccessfully, to move the state’s border north so that Georgia could claim part of the Tennessee River.

Good Magazine released their latest Transparency issue this week, spotlighting US cities which have “sustainable, self-contained water supplies, and which cities are forced to turn to outside help.” It’s an interesting visualization, showing New York City as one of the largest importers of water at 396 billion gallons a year. It’s not as cut and dry as it seems, though: San Diego imports a mere 76 billion gallons, but 40% of that is pumped in from Sacramento, 444 miles away.

Tracking a water footprint is not quite yet a science. “When you try to reduce a complex subject into a single number, the methodology is so inconsistent and unreliable that it’s fraught with the possibility of manipulation and misinformation,” Wayne Balta, vice president of corporate environmental affairs and product safety for International Business Machines Corp, told the WSJ. But it is a real issue, and it is a real benchmark that we’re going to be hearing more about. Water-management experts have started to build models for “water offset” projects so that beverage companies and other heavy water users can soften their impact by funding water sanitation and conservation projects. PepsiCo recently piloted a program to help rice farmers cultivating 4,000 acres in India switch from flood irrigation to direct seeding, a planting method that requires less water and makes crops more resilient to drought.

[images via Zuma Press for WSJ (top); A collaboration between GOOD and Fogelson-Lubliner (bottom)]


Fitness Advocate: Paving The Future of Workouts With Audio

Fitness & Sport
Innovation Today

After The Initial Success Of AR Gaming, What Does The Future Hold?

With Pokemon GO earning up to $10m a day, R&D departments are busy searching for the next phase

Arts & Culture Today

The Next Great Art Movement Will Come At The Swipe Of A Finger

An improved app, optimized digital display and monthly art discovery service round out Electric Objects' renewed commitment to democratizing the art world


Get PSFK's Related Report: Future of Work

See All
Retail Today

A TV Streaming Service Is Designed Just For Kids

Toca TV is a new platform offering thousands of original and curated children's videos for a monthly subscription fee

Travel Today

Bus Stop Transformed Into A Fitness Station For Commuters

Sports drink company Lucozade live-streamed an athletic trainer working out at a stop in Manchester to encourage travelers to get moving

Related Expert

David Polinchock

Emerging Technologies

Technology Today

Shiseido And Microsoft Have Created A Makeup Filter For Women Who Telecommute

The Japanese cosmetic company built an augmented reality app that works alongside Skype for Business

Mobile Today

Samsung Is Using AR To Help Beachgoers Stay Safe

Pocket Patrol utilizes a phone's camera to promote beach safety and educate people about hidden hazards

Design & Architecture Today

500 Plastic Chairs Used To Create A Recyclable Pavilion

Design agency CODA built a grandoise art piece from simple lawn furniture


Future Of Automotive
Scenarios Driving The Digital Transformation Of An Industry

PSFK Op-Ed Today

Marketing Experts: Millennials And The Power Of Cool

'Good Is The New Cool' Authors Afdhel Aziz and Bobby Jones share their 7 principles for branding with a social impact

PSFK Labs Today

The Keys For Exceptional Performance On And Off The Field

PSFK Labs' new report highlights five important insights for businesses to perform better than the competition

Retail Today

Exchange Your Old Razors For New Ones At This Bartershop

The subscription-based shaving company lets customers trade their unwanted razors for Harry's brand steel at a temporary New York pop-up

Food Today

A Brewer Has Created The Most Expensive Chips To Snack On

St. Eriks Brewery created crisps made from rare mushrooms to go with its artisan beer, donating all proceeds to charity

Travel Today

Melbourne Hotel Lets Guests Stay In Their Own Chrome Airstream Trailers

Notel is a luxury rooftop with six guest rooms made from vintage 1970s mobile homes

Infants Today

Battery Powered Cradle Will Rock Itself

NoomiNoomi is a clever device that makes it easier to put babies to sleep

Fitness & Sport Today

How Precision Data Can Make Anyone A Better Performer

The Sports Debrief from PSFK Labs looks at how analytic tools are being developed to optimize human performance across all industries

Home Today

You Can Now Buy Furniture From A Daytime TV Show

Home furnishing online retailer Wayfair is partnering with Lifetime to create a shoppable life improvement television program

Social Media Today

Instagram Tool Prevents People From Harming Themselves

A new anonymous reporting option on the social media platform hopes to provide better emotional support for users

No search results found.