Water is the essence of life.
Water is essential for all life on earth. Our own health, as well as the health of the environment, plants and animals are intrinsically linked to water and the health of our water resources.
World Water Day is celebrated annually, on the 22nd of March. A day to highlight the importance of water, promote sustainable water management and the individual actions we can take to protect it.
Some of the water we use every day is obvious such as using taps, flushing toilets, cooking, heating and showering; this is known as visible water. However, this visible consumption is only a small percentage of our water footprint.
Sustainable lifestyle choices start through simple behavioural shifts. Small changes can go a long way to reducing our overall impact on water, such as taking shorter showers, washing up by hand rather than machine, washing clothes less and not leaving the tap running (e.g. when brushing your teeth or washing the dishes).
We must also consider our hidden water use, which accounts for all the water embedded in making the products that we use and consume, from food and drinks to clothing and technology. Water is a crucial resource throughout all stages of production and therefore the more processing involved, the more water something takes to produce. It is this hidden water that makes up most of our daily water consumption (over 90% on average).
The largest portion of our overall water usage is tied to what we eat and the role that water plays in producing our food. The Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) of the United Nations states that in general animal products, such as meat and dairy, have a larger water footprint than plant products. We need to be mindful of our food choices and consider the production methods, transport, packaging and water used along the way; from field to fork.
Check out this really useful resource to visualise the water embedded in our food: https://thewaterweeat.com/
The FAO also states that one-third of food produced for human consumption is lost or wasted globally, this results in both food and water waste.
Another significant quantity of our water footprint is embedded in the clothes we wear. The United Nations Alliance for Sustainable Fashion states that the fashion industry is the second-biggest consumer of water. Water is heavily used in the production of cotton and other fibre crops, dyes, leather and plastics that make up the fabric of our clothes. The care and upkeep of clothes is also heavy on water.
We can reduce the water impact of our clothing purchases and care; by striving to buy less and look to reuse and upcycle clothes and, when we do shop, check out sustainable brands, second-hand and vintage stores.
As outlined above, our everyday actions and purchasing have a direct impact on our water.
In the face of a growing population and increasing pressure on limited global water resource, we must make smart and sustainable choices to meet all of our needs whilst protecting our precious water resources.