Virtual Water – How much do you use?


This weeks blog is from Katrin Stiper. Katrin recently completed a 2 week long internship with us where she used her expertise in Environmental Resource Management to create content for our online platforms.
How much water is needed to produce your lunch, a new Laptop, your favourite item of clothing or red roses? This type of water consumption is referred as virtual water.
How much water do you think is needed to produce one cup of coffee?Answer – 140 litres

strawberryGlobally, agriculture is the largest water consumer. 15,500 litres water is needed to produce one kilogramme of beef.1 Most strawberries, which are consumed in Europe come from Southern Spain. The high water requirements of crops in dry southern Spain makes intensive irrigation necessary. To ensure the water supply for this region illegal wells are drilled. This enormous water consumption has extreme impacts on the local flora and fauna. In the Coto de Donana National Park, (one of Europe´s largest wetlands and habitat of millions of migratory birds) the amount of water of the Rocina river has declined in the past 30 years by half.This river provides water for most of the year and regulates the water level of the wetland, which serves as a resting place for migratory birds every year. But now the Rocina dries out earlier and earlier. Previously the river dried up each year in September, and in October it started to rain again. But in the last five years the river has dried out in June. The lagoons are getting smaller with parts of the wetland becoming steppes.
Roses say more than a thousand words and bring joy, but not in the country in which they are produced. Whether for Mother´s Day or your birthday, you can never go wrong with red roses, right?
For rose production, the climatic conditions on the east coast of Africa are optimal. For Kenya, roses are the main agricultural products produced for export. Thus, the flower trade is an important economic factor for the country. Another fact is that in the conventional floral rose production, a large amount of pesticide is used. Roses need about 60 cubic meters of clean water per hectare per day. When increased water withdrawals is allied to increasing water pollution, the water reserves in the region become more scarce. It’s also worth mentioning is that rose production in Kenya is the main source of income after tourism.

For us consumers, it is very difficult to get an insight into water usage, because many companies do not have to make their levels of water consumption public. However instead of focusing on what others should/shouldnt do, why not focus on your own virtual water consumption.
Small changes makes a difference. For example, which fruits or vegetables do you buy? Are they seasonal? In summer it is very easy to switch to native fruits. Why not buy fresh meat from local farmers? And who says that a self-written letter is not worth the same or valued even more than a bouquet of roses. Creativity knows no bounds.
Water is precious so don´t waste it.

You can calculate your own waterfootprint: http://www.waterfootprint.org/. You will be suprised.
And if you want share your thoughts with me, please do!

1 http://virtuelles-wasser.de/schwein_rind.html
2 http://www.taz.de/1/archiv/archiv/?dig=2007/02/17/a0199
http://www.theguardian.com/sustainable-business/water-footprints-lessons-kenya-floriculture
http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/europe/how-the-thirst-for-strawberries-is-draining-spains-precious-water-436317.html
http://virtualwater.eu/

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