Virtual Water

Here’s something to ponder since the political panic is behind us for a bit. What’s your Water IQ? We hear a lot about water conservation lately, and how water is likely to become more scarce and valuable in some parts of the world in years to come. We are urged to take quick showers rather than long baths, wear our clothes an extra time between washings, don’t water the lawn or wash the car in the driveway, and turn off the water while we brush our teeth.

However, a new perspective offered over at is beginning to make me think that my teeth brushing habits are almost irrelevant. These guys are considering all the water that goes into producing things. The water to grow the beans that get ground for you coffee. The water to grow the grain that feeds the pigs, in addition to the water used directly to raise the pigs, in addition to the water used to grow the trees that are burned to smoke the pig, all to get you bacon for breakfast.

In this light, a banana requires 27 gallons to produce. A cup of coffee needs 38 gallons. Consider that 53 gallons of water are required for every egg. And a pound of beef uses a whopping 1,857 gallons. This view also applies to non-consumable goods as well. A cotton shirt uses 713 gallons, while a leather handbag needs the equivalent of half the volume of a typical backyard swimming pool.

So yes, water conservation does involve hollering into the bathroom as your rapidly wrinkling teen enters the second half hour of their shower. But in reality you’re probably throwing more virtual water away in leftovers and food scraps than you are flushing down the drain.

It’s enough to make you want a beer. Yet a glass of beer requires 28 gallons of water to produce, and I’m not sure I’m that thirsty.

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