There Are 2,000 Gallons Of Water In Your Jeans, Sort Of

Taking shorter showers or turning the water off when you brush your teeth are good starts when it comes to water conservation, but you'd be surprised at just how much water is used in the production of everyday items you've never given a second thought.

Why It Matters

It's easy to assume that your daily water use is limited to your morning shower, cooking and cleaning, and the eight (or so) glasses you drink to keep hydrated. In reality, a person's water footprint is much more significant—nearly everything you eat or wear, for example, uses water in the manufacturing process.

Take a pair of jeans. According to author Stephen Leahy's "Your Water Footprint: The Shocking Facts About How Much Water We Use to Make Everyday Products," it takes 2,000 gallons (7,600 liters) of water to make your favorite pair of jeans. That includes growing the cotton and manufacturing the garment, but it doesn't include the water that you'll use to wash your jeans over time. Leahy says that the average American's daily water footprint is a whopping 2,115 gallons (8,000 liters). "Since 1 liter weighs 1 kilogram (2.2 pounds), that's the weight of four cars you have to haul if you get all that water from a well," he writes.

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Why People Should Know

This water-footprint issue is no small thing. According to the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development, 47 percent of the world's population will face severe water shortages by 2030. A number of companies, especially those in the food and beverage business, are taking note of their own water footprints—the H2O necessary to manufacture their products—and striving to become what they call "water neutral." Coca-Cola, for example, uses 2.03 liters of water to make 1 liter of product. In 2007, the company made a public pledge to offset each gallon of water it uses in production by recycling or conserving a gallon somewhere else by the year 2020. By the end of 2015, the company reached its goal, replenishing nearly 153.6 billion liters of water in a total of 61 countries through projects including protecting watersheds and improving safe access to water and sanitation.

But even individual people can do their parts to reduce their water footprint. "It's all about smart substitutions and changes, rather than sacrifice and self-denial, but we can't make the right choices unless we begin to see and understand the invisible ways in which we rely on water," Leahy wrote in The Guardian. "If a family of four served chicken instead of beef they'd reduce their water use by an astonishing 900,000 litres a year. That's enough to fill an Olympic size pool to a depth of two feet. If this same family of opted for Meatless Mondays, they'd save another 400,000 litres. Now they could fill that pool halfway." Other easy options? Low-flow showerheads and toilets, and buying clothing at thrift stores.

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Written by Curiosity Staff December 20, 2016

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