How long are your showers? Have you replaced your faucet, toilet, or shower head? Do you have an outdoor pool? A new tool, a water footprint calculator provided by National Geographic, asks you those as well as a number of other questions to determine how much water you use on a daily basis. The queries about the water that flows through your pipes relate to the smallest part of your water footprint. Those things, like watering your lawn and doing your laundry, account for only about five percent of water usage, surprisingly enough.
Around the world people are using water to irrigate their crops and power their energy grids (see a breakdown of where we use our water here). In the U.S., the average American uses close to 2,000 gallons a day, two times the global average. To decrease that amount, the group has come up with a way for people to calculate the volume that they use—and figure out a way to pull the plug on wasted water.
Going vegetarian is one way to do just that, the interactive website shows. What you eat can account for up to 50 percent of the water you use.
“1,800 gallons of water are used to produce one pound (16 ounces) of beef! Think about that! The average American eats about seven three-ounce servings of beef each week. Do you eat more or less?” the survey says. It goes on to ask questions about the rest of your diet, how you get around, and what you buy, coming up with an average amount of water used in four different categories: Water used in your home and yard; water used for your diet; water used for your transportation and energy; and water used by your stuff.
The organization is not the first to come up with such a calculator, as Katherine Tweed wrote on The Perch, Audubon magazine’s blog, nearly two years ago. Both H2Oconserve.org and the National Wildlife Federation have ways for people to estimate their water consumption.
During a hot summer when sprinklers are spraying and the AC is cranking, figuring out just how much H2O we each use could help us conserve a little of our freshwater. My results were just about as shocking as being dropped into a dunk tank, which is enough for me to take the plunge and pledge to use less.