Water Footprint: What is it and what steps can we take to reduce it?

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In Canada, we are very lucky to have a vast supply of freshwater. We have 20% of the world’s freshwater, and in our daily lives that supply can feel limitless. This great fortune isn’t held by everyone in the world, or even everyone in Canada. Across Canada there are over 1000 drinking water advisories today! I am very glad that this morning I was able to make coffee, brush my teeth, and take a shower. I did all of this without worrying that I might run out of water, or that my water might not be safe to use. Since I’m so grateful for my clean and safe tap water, I began to consider how I use water and how much water I use every day. It’s easy to take our supply of water for granted. Sometimes it’s worthwhile to pause and reflect upon how we use water, how much water we use, and how we can take care of water.


Canadians use a lot of water, an average of 329L every day. The only country that uses more water per capita than Canada is the United States. But how do we use so much water? 65% of our water usage is in the bathroom. The amount of water used varies from bathroom to bathroom, depending the efficiency of the toilet, sink, shower, and tub. Toilets use anywhere between 4 to 26L of water per flush, an 8 minute shower uses an average of 76L, and a full bath can use over 150L. Other everyday activities that use a lot of water are laundry (53-170L) and dishwashing (11-100L). I try to conserve water through my habits of taking quick showers, filling up my sink to reuse water for dishwashing, and only doing full loads of laundry. There are also ways that I can conserve more water through simple actions like fixing my leaky faucet, taking less baths, and investing in water-efficient appliances. However, the fact remains that I need water in my daily life, and my water footprint is made up of more components than the water that I consume directly.


A water footprint is the total quantity of water consumed by a person, including the amount needed to produce the goods and services consumed. So the amount of water that we use is not just the water it takes to brush our teeth or wash our dishes, but the amount of water that it takes to make the things that we eat and buy. For example, one pair of jeans can take over 10,000L of water to make when you factor in the water used to grow the cotton, to make the dyes, and to wash them! Another example is the water it takes to make our food, a pound of beef can take 6,991L, a pound of tofu can take 1,143L, and a pound of almonds can take 7,302L. These quantities may seem overwhelming. Comparatively we drink a minuscule amount of water: only 2.7-3.7L/day. It is impossible to live without consuming water. When we are aware of how much water we consume both directly and indirectly, we are able to make informed decisions to conserve water.


Water is vital to life. Our bodies are 60-75% water! We use a lot of water in our daily lives, and it’s important to consider how much water you’re using. If you’re like me, and don’t want to waste water, the first steps are examining how much water you use and planning simple changes to conserve water. If you are aware of how water influences your daily life, you’re more likely to protect it. The next time that you’re about to turn on the faucet, consider the journey of that water from the Saskatchewan Glacier to your tap. Water is precious and water is important. Reducing your water footprint starts with small steps like eating less meat, planting native species in your garden, and sweeping your patio or driveway instead of hosing it down.  

Looking for more ideas? Here’s over 100 ways to conserve water: https://wateruseitwisely.com/100-ways-to-conserve/?view=list




Anne, Melodie. “How Much Water Do You Drink to Flush Your Body?” LIVESTRONG.COM, Leaf Group, 3 Oct. 2017, www.livestrong.com/article/454986-how-much-water-do-you-drink-to-flush-your-body/

Bradford, Alina. “Dishwasher vs. Hand-Washing: What Saves More Water?” CNET, CNET, 7 Mar. 2017, www.cnet.com/how-to/how-much-water-do-dishwashers-use/

“Clothes Washer.” Toilets | Home Water Works, www.home-water-works.org/indoor-use/clothes-washer

“It Takes Up to 10,000 Litres Of Water To Make One Pair Of Jeans, Know How It Affects The Environment.” The Logical Indian, The Logical Indian, 4 Feb. 2017, www.thelogicalindian.com/environment/jeans/

Mortillaro, Nicole. “This Is How Much Water Canadians Waste.” Global News, Global News, 30 Oct. 2016, www.globalnews.ca/news/3016754/this-is-how-much-water-canadians-waste/

Weinstein, Kaley. “How Much Water Does It Take to Make a Pair of Jeans?” SiOWfa15 Science in Our World Certainty and Controversy, 16 Oct. 2014, www.sites.psu.edu/math033sp15/2014/10/16/how-much-water-does-it-take-to-make-a-pair-of-jeans 


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