Our Water Footprint

| 10/25/2010 7:50:33 AM

Tags: Tom Kostigen, water conservation, water crisis, water scarcity, water stress, Circle of Blue, The Green Book, The Green Blue Book, embedded water, Simran Sethi,

I see water everywhere, embedded into everything. This concept of virtual, or embedded, water is one I learned from my friend and colleague Tom Kostigen. The co-author of the New York Times bestseller The Green Book, Tom first explained the concept of virtual water in his 2008 Discovery magazine article, “Everything You Know About Water Conservation is Wrong.”

At the time, the concept did not hold much interest for me. I was more concerned with the water I could see than the virtual water it took to make things. But Tom’s latest book, The Green Blue Book, makes clear that virtual water must be a priority. The book details tips for water conservation in our daily lives by revealing the water that is visible (in, say, a dripping tap) and the water that is embedded (the water it takes to make the tap itself). By understanding that a chicken requires about 468 gallons of water to process while an egg contains about 23 gallons of virtual water, we can start to make smarter, systemic decisions about how to conserve our most precious resource.

watertapOur water crisis is local and global. A 2003 report from the United States General Accountability Office predicted 36 states would grapple with water scarcity by 2013. According to Circle of Blue, 18 states expect local water shortages and 16 states expect regional water shortages over the next decade. During a time when one in six people in the world does not have access to enough safe drinking water, and 45 of our 50 United States report “water stress” conditions, we have the opportunity to use less and do better.

I interviewed Tom, asking him to explain our global water challenges and suggest what we can do in our homes every day to improve these scary conditions.


Simran: Tom, you’ve written about the use and abuse of our natural resources for a long time. What prompted you to focus your attention on water?

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