What does conserving water look like in your home?
Maybe it’s simply turning off the tap while brushing your teeth. Perhaps you bought a low-flow toilet or bought other water-efficient appliances. (High-five!) Maybe you make a friendly competition on who can take the quickest showers in the house. It feels good to conserve such a valuable resource as water. But even still, as a community, and as a global economy, it’s better to know what is most important when it comes to water conservation. Where are the “hot spots” that need our attention most? How can we be most effective in our efforts?
By focusing only on the water use that we can actually see, we actually end up missing a whole lot. Though it’s hard to picture, each drop of water used to grow our food and create the goods and services we rely upon is also part of our water footprint. In fact, the food we eat ends up being a majority of our individual water footprints.
But how much water are we talking about?
Take an orange, for example. One orange takes an average water footprint of 106 liters. (It’s important to call this an average, because the water required to produce any type of food can vary significantly from one farm to the next and even from one season to the next.) Climate parameters and irrigation practices both play a significant role in how much water is needed to grow. And not all water used to grow that orange is created equal.
When it comes to a water footprint, there is a big difference between what scientists call blue water versus green water.1 Blue water is surface water and groundwater used to produce an item. In the case of the orange, this mainly refers to irrigation on the farm, or the water that is manually extracted from the environment. Green water, on the other hand, refers to rainwater that directly falls on and waters fields and orchards. As you can imagine, availability of green water for growing can vary significantly based on the climate. For our example ‘average’ orange, roughly 72% of the water footprint comes from green water, but this is highly dependent on where and how the oranges are grown. In wetter climates, green water could account for as much as 100% of the water needed for growing. And in drought stricken regions, some seasons may not have any rainwater at all to help with growing, making the water needed to grow the orange even more precious.
So it’s not just the total amount of water, but where that water comes from plays a role in our own water footprints. And the 106 liters of water needed to produce one orange is surprisingly much more than the 60 liters of water used in the average shower. Check out this graph below to see the water required for a number of different types of food.
Source: The Water Network
As the biggest part of our individual water footprints, it’s important that we protect the water used to grow and distribute the food we eat. And the best way we can do this is by reducing the amount of food that goes to waste. In the US alone, nearly 16 trillion liters of water are used each year to grow food that ends up as waste.
In other words, throwing away an orange is essentially wasting 106 liters of water. And depending on where that orange was grown, you may be wasting that precious water in a region with greater water scarcity than your own.
Our mission at Apeel is to help you reduce this wasted food and water. By extending the shelf life of fresh produce, Apeel gives you more time to enjoy that orange before it spoils and, in turn, we’re all helping to conserve the precious water used on the farm. To learn more about how Apeel measures the water savings from reducing food waste (while also taking the Apeel product water footprint into account) check out our life cycle assessment study:
1Grey water is the third type of water required for agricultural production. Grey water refers to the volume of freshwater that is required to assimilate the load of pollutants based on natural background concentrations and existing ambient water quality standards.