Water’s Hidden Depths: Virtual Water
By Nancy Wells
Posted March 27, 2014
Water is vital to all of us for the basic necessities of drinking, cleaning, and sanitation. What most people do not think about or generally consider is the water that we use in so many unforeseen ways.
The Value of Water Coalition website contains an informative infographic on “how do you consume your water?” that illustrates this point, all of which factors into your individual water footprint.
A water footprint is the amount of water a person uses throughout the day, including in the food they eat, the clothes they wear and the water that is used to produce the materials and appliances they use. The water that is included in these products is considered to be virtual water, since people do not necessarily see it as it is being consumed.
For more information on water footprints and how to use an innovative online tool for technical calculations, visit the Water Footprint Network.
Americans use more water per capita than any other country in the world. Our water footprint spans the globe through both direct and virtual use. A greater awareness of where our water comes from – including virtual water included in products we import from other countries – and how we actually use it is increasingly important for conservation in an economic system that is becoming more complex and interconnected.
People of the U.S. should think about the virtual water in the products and services we buy and use, because the impact of the water we consume in products usually runs far beyond our local environments and watersheds. We are using and abusing not just our own, but other people’s water. Much of our water and resource use is hidden in products, and we need to keep this thought in mind in both large and small decisions if our water use is obvious or not. Valuing and caring for water is something we need to focus more attention on if we expect to have this resource continuously available for our future.