28 June 2022 Water Use Accountability – Water is Life

Flowers, plants, trees and gardens require a lot of water, like us, to stay alive.

Hello to you today. How are you? I’m tired. Didn’t have a very restful sleep last night. I know I’m not alone about that! I’ve had water on my mind a lot more than usual lately. The headlines coming in around the globe about our freshwater drinking supplies is grim. I have been looking at my own life and personal habits with regards to water usage…..on my walks watching water running from sprinklers, down the street and into the drains. Stand by the canals we have here and watching how many lives other than humans depend on a narrow strip of flowing water. I grew up in a time when we drank water directly from the tap. Now I go to our local grocery store and sometimes the shelves are pretty bare of bottled drinking water….so I end up buying Gatorade or flavored water that really isn’t good for me and my wanting to lose weight.

This morning after watching John Oliver’s piece on water, I found an article that I had been looking for. It talks about how much of our water resources is going towards things we buy like smartphones for example. We are coming to a wake up call, collectively, many will deny needs to happen. Much of what drives the livelihoods of many businesses and workers is the buying and selling of goods, services and luxuries for entertainment like water parks for example. People, myself included, have lived with the now romantic notion of the seeming plentiful nature of water on this earth. We, those paying attention, are seeing harsh realities. Trees, that contribute to our shared oxygen supply, need water. The womb, where a baby takes the 9 month journey in humans is in water. Water is life….quite literally so. No water….no babies.

https://www.watercalculator.org/footprint/the-hidden-water-in-everyday-products/

Hidden water is an important part of water use. It may not be visible, but millions of gallons of virtual water go into making the consumer goods Americans buy, use and throw away. Manufacturing everyday materials like paper, plastic, metal and fabric takes water – a lot of it. Knowing how much water it takes to make the raw materials and products we all use and consume is an important first step towards water conservation and using water more productively. 

Hidden Water: How the Water Footprints of Consumer Goods are Calculated

Hidden water is water that is not felt or seen and it is required for almost every step in the production processes for many raw materials and finished products. The water footprint of a product is calculated by adding up all of the water required for each step of the production process. Table 1 lists a sampling of water footprints for the manufacturing of some common consumer goods.

Table 1. Water Footprint of Common Consumer Items.

ItemWater FootprintCar13,737–21,926 gallons (52,000–83,000 liters)Leather Shoes2,113 gallons  (8,000 liters)Smart phone (mobile)3,190 gallons  (12,760 liters)Jeans (cotton)2,866 gallons  (10,850 liters)Bed Sheet (cotton)2,576 gallons  (9,750 liters)T-shirt (cotton)659 gallons  (2,720 liters)Paper (1 piece; A4)1.3 gallons  (5.1 liters)SOURCES: Berger et al; Water Footprint Network, “Water footprints of nations”Friends of the Earth/Trucost; WFN, “The water footprint of cotton consumption” ; WFN, “The water footprint of wood for lumber, pulp, paper, fuel and firewood”

The Water Footprint Network (whose research provides some of the data used in the WFC) defines these components as:

Blue Water Footprint: The amount of surface water and groundwater required (evaporated or used directly) to produce an item.

Green Water Footprint: The amount of rainwater required (evaporated or used directly) to make an item.

Grey Water Footprint: The amount of freshwater required to dilute the wastewater generated in manufacturing, in order to maintain water quality, as determined by state and local standards.

How Much Virtual Water is in a Smart Phone?

Take smart phones, for example. Their water footprint comes from the virtual water associated with their manufacturing – what’s known as the “grey water footprint.”

Phones are composed of many pieces created in multiple steps, and each step consumes water. Numerous resources, materials and parts go into smartphone manufacturing, including rare earth metals (e.g., lithium), tin, glass and plastics. The supply chains for these materials stretch around the world to places like Indonesia, the Philippines and China. Production might include steps like mining for precious metals, creating synthetic chemicals for glue and plastic and assembling and packaging. Collectively, the water associated with each step adds up to the blue water footprint.

In addition, manufacturing the parts creates wastewater that is released into surrounding waterways. Those waterways often have pollution limits that manufacturers must meet before they can send their wastewater down the pipe and into the waterway. The water used to clean and dilute the wastewater adds up to the grey water footprint, and in the case of the smart phone, makes up the largest portion of its total water footprint.

When the water required for all the steps to make a smart phone is added up, the water footprint of the production of a single phone is an estimated 3,190 gallons.

The Water Footprint of Everyday Paper, Plastic and Cotton

Similarly, water is consumed in manufacturing most other products. For example, it takes 22 gallons of water to make one pound of plastic. In fact, it takes at least twice as much water to produce a plastic water bottle as the amount of water contained in the bottle. The water footprint of one pound of cotton is 1,320 gallons. That equals over 650 gallons of water for one new cotton t-shirt. Even refining gasoline takes water – approximately one to 2.5 gallons of water to refine one gallon of gasoline.

To meet all of these needs, industrial facilities in the US withdraw over 15.9 billion gallons of water per day. Fortunately, due to increasingly efficient manufacturing practices, most factories have reduced water use by 12 percent since 2005, and 33 percent since 1970.

All told, the water that keeps America afloat on a sea of consumer goods is enormous. As some of the biggest shoppers on the planet, the average American’s water footprint for buying, using and throwing away consumer goods (excluding food) is 583 gallons of water per day.

Save Water With the Three Rs: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle

The adage “reduce, reuse, recycle” becomes even more relevant given all the water and other resources that go into making all the products consumed in America. Many consumer goods are made to be thrown away, so they pile up in landfills, wash into the ocean or litter the landscape.

Buying fewer products in the first place reduces the overall number of products that are made, and, in turn, reduces the amount of water needed by the factories that make these products. Additionally, recycling consumer goods can have a positive effect. In 2012, for example, the US threw out over 24 million tons of paper and almost 29 million tons of plastic – both of which are water-intensive materials that can be re-used and/or recycled. Recycling a pound of paper – the same amount found in a typical daily newspaper – saves 3.5 gallons of water.

Small actions like recycling at home, reusing items when possible and using fewer plastic bags and paper towels can make a small but cumulative difference in water consumption. Reducing the need for new products in the first place – ending overconsumption – is the strategy that saves the most water. Avoiding purchases of disposable, low-quality goods that are made to go in the trash makes a big difference. Buying used items and thrifting – especially for clothing – or buying products that are of higher quality, reusable and, if need be, recyclable, are the best options when new purchases are necessary.

The Hidden Water in Energy

The average American today uses about five times more electricity than they did 50 years ago. This increase is significant because it takes a substantial amount of water to create energy. Water is used to cool steam electric power plants – fueled by coal, oil, natural gas and nuclear power – and is required to generate hydropower. Water is also used in great quantities during fuel extraction, refining and production. So, wasted energy is, in effect, wasted water.

Nobody will have a water footprint of zero because it takes water to make just about everything we choose to buy, eat, use and throw away. Individual daily decisions might seem small, but cumulatively they can have a great impact.

Updated 5/13/2022

https://youtu.be/jtxew5XUVbQ – Water: Last Week Tonight with John Oliver

My prayers for the souls and families of this story from San Antonio Texas….. those considered disposable, replaceable, desperate people and the consequences:

https://amp.cnn.com/cnn/2022/06/27/us/san-antonio-migrants-found-truck/index.html

50 migrants believed dead after they were found in a semitruck in San Antonio, official says, with others hospitalized

https://youtu.be/2Ox1Tore9nw– Elvis Presley The Ghetto

Lyrics that speak from “then” to “now.” Songs and lyrics can just be a nice song or, to me, messages and warnings:

In the Ghetto

Song by Elvis Presley

OverviewLyricsListenVideosArtistsAnalysisComposers

As the snow flies
On a cold and gray Chicago mornin’
A poor little baby child is born
In the ghetto
(In the ghetto)

And his mama cries
‘Cause if there’s one thing that she don’t need
It is another hungry mouth to feed
In the ghetto
(In the ghetto)

People, don’t you understand
The child needs a helping hand
Or he’ll grow to be an angry young man some day
Take a look at you and me
Are we too blind to see?
Do we simply turn our heads
And look the other way

Well, the world turns
And a hungry little boy with a runny nose
Plays in the street as the cold wind blows
In the ghetto
(In the ghetto)

And his hunger burns
So he starts to roam the streets at night
And he learns how to steal
And he learns how to fight
In the ghetto
(In the ghetto)

Then one night in desperation
The young man breaks away
He buys a gun, steals a car
Tries to run, but he don’t get far
And his mama cries

As a crowd gathers ’round an angry young man
Face down on the street with a gun in his hand
In the ghetto
(In the ghetto)

And as her young man dies
(In the ghetto)
On a cold and gray Chicago mornin’
Another little baby child is born
In the ghetto
(In the ghetto)

And his mama cries
(In the ghetto)
(In the ghetto)
(Ah)

Source: Musixmatch

Songwriters: Graham David Bates / Writer Unknown

In the Ghetto lyrics © Sony/atv Songs Llc, R & H Music Company, Atal Music

A voice in all of this that comforts me and great to sing along with….no words just the healing sound energy of music. Thank you Mei-lan! So glad I found you:

https://youtu.be/Ea-D3ihfHXk – Raise Your Frequency – Mei-lan Maurits

https://youtube.com/c/Meilanmaurits

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