Water shortages are a growing problem across the globe affecting farming and food production, human health and many of the industries we rely on, like power generation. If we don’t have enough water, every aspect of our lives is affected.
Why is water scarce?
You may be wondering why this is such a big issue, as many countries suffer excess rainfall! But the choices we make around food and the things we buy can affect water scarcity across the world. This is because so much of our water consumption happens outside our homes (around 95%), sometimes in areas already affected by serious water shortages.
Right now, more than 2 billion people live in places where water is scarce, and that number is expected to grow. So, what’s causing this problem?
- Farming: Farming uses a lot of water, about 70% of what’s available globally. Irrigation is essential for growing a wide range of crops, from rice and wheat to fruits and vegetables, especially in regions with insufficient rainfall. Livestock farming requires water not only for animals to drink but also crop cultivation for their feed.
- Fashion: You might not realise it, but the clothes you wear have a big water footprint. Growing cotton and dyeing fabrics use a huge amount of water. For example, it takes 5,000 litres of water to make just one pair of jeans, that’s 4 months’ worth of showers!
- Stuff We Buy: Everything we buy, from groceries to gadgets, has a hidden water cost. The production of electronic devices and appliances involves various manufacturing processes that require water, from cooling and cleaning to making parts. Additionally, the mining of raw materials, like metals and minerals for electronics, can contribute to water pollution and scarcity in certain regions.
- Energy consumption: Energy production often requires substantial amounts of water for cooling and power generation. Therefore, our choices as consumers, including opting for energy-efficient and water-saving appliances, can play a part in reducing the hidden water footprint associated with the things we buy.
10 Steps to cutting water usage
- Shorter Showers: Cutting down your shower time and turning off the tap while brushing your teeth are easy ways to save water daily. The average shower is 8 minutes and uses 120 litres of water.
- Fix Leaks: That annoying dripping faucet isn’t just wasting water; if you have a water meter, it’s also costing you money. Fix leaks as soon as you can to save water and your hard-earned cash.
- Use appliance eco settings: Many modern appliances, like washing machines and dishwashers, offer eco-friendly or water-saving settings that work just as well, but use much less water. Only run your dishwasher and washing machine with full loads.
- Rainwater Harvesting: Install a rain barrel to catch rainwater for your garden. It’s a win-win: you save tap water and money while keeping your garden green. A typical roof collects enough water to fill 450 water butts every year!
- Smart Gardening: Choose native plants for your garden—they need less water. Adding mulch also helps keep moisture in and reduces the need for frequent watering.
- Shop Thoughtfully: Think about investing in clothes that are made to last, rather than more disposable fashion. This not only saves you money but also reduces the need to buy replacements.
- Less Food Waste: About one-third of all food produced goes to waste, including the water used to produce it. Be mindful of food waste and try to reduce it.
- Sustainable Products: Support brands that care about the environment and use responsible water practices in their production, often this information is available for you to check on their website. Sustainable clothing produces less waste, uses less water and typically has much better conditions for workers.
- Eat Less Meat: Meat production uses a lot of water. Plant based products have a lower carbon footprint, use less land and water to grow and are often better for your health too. Cutting back on meat, even occasionally, can reduce your water footprint.
- Think about your energy supplier: Recognise that your energy choices can have ripple effects on water resources. Some sustainable energy practices, such as wind and solar PV, not only conserve water but also contribute to reducing greenhouse gas emissions, which can have positive long-term impacts on water availability and quality.
There are small changes you can make every day to reduce water at home, try our water saving checklist step to give you some more great ideas.
The Trouble with Water Pollution
We are making our water problems even worse for ourselves by polluting the water we do have. 80% of all waste water is discharged into the world’s waterways without treatment. Many people are now regularly affected by sewage dumping in our rivers and oceans, and one child under five dies every 80 seconds from diseases caused by polluted water.
We can help reduce water pollution by looking out for chemicals we flush away, not just at home, but also in the clothes we buy, or the food we eat. For example:
- Try some eco cleaning products at home
- Use bathroom products with less chemicals
- Reduce the chemicals you use in your garden
- Avoid pouring chemicals, paints, or medicines down the drain
By saving water at home, making mindful shopping choices, and taking some steps to prevent water pollution, you’re helping to create a more sustainable and water-secure world. Remember, every drop counts, and our future depends on our thoughtful use of this precious resource.
Go to Giki Zero to find even more steps that will help you learn what to do to be Water Wise.