Hidden Waters: Embedded Water & Our True Consumption Print

Each Briton uses about 150 litres of tap water a day, but if you include the amount of water embedded within products our water consumption is around 3400 litres every day!

Download 'Hidden Waters' - Waterwise report on Embedded water

Embedded water

Water is an essential part of our daily lives in many more ways than we realize. Beer, burgers, clothing, our cars and homes, and even electricity all have water embedded in them. Embedded water is water used to produce food and non-food products.

Much of the embedded water that we consume, about 70 percent of our water footprint, comes from other nations, as we import goods and services into our country.

The pie chart divides up the 3400 litres of water that we use daily use into four main consumption groups:
1) drinking water
water used for domestic purposes such as cooking, cleaning, washing, and flushing
3) water embedded in industrial goods – your car, for example, has about 400,000 litres embedded in it
4) water embedded in your food.


Embedded water in food

About 65 percent of the water that we consume is in our food. A tomato has about 13 litres of water embedded in it; an apple has about 70 litres; a pint of beer about 170 litres; a glass of milk about 200 litres; and a hamburger about 2400 litres. It takes about 136 drops of water to produce one drop of tea, and about 1100 drops of water to produce one drop of coffee!

Why does this matter?

If present levels of consumption continue, two-thirds of the global population will live in areas of water stress by 2025. Increasing human demand for water coupled with the effects of climate change mean that the future of our water supply is not secure.
The UK has already witnessed some of its worst droughts ever. Though we might envision our nation as lush and rainy, we are not immune from water scarcity problems. We, too, can run out of water.
But there is hope.

What can we do?

We all waste a lot of water at home and at work. If we all made some simple and quick changes in our lives, we could save loads of water!

We can also ask our retailers and supermarkets to provide information about the amount of water embedded in goods, and we can demand that these shops ensure that their goods are produced with as little impact on water resources as possible.

We must start thinking about how much we really rely on this finite and shared resource. Water stress is becoming a big topic here in the UK and abroad. Climate change is set to impact our water resources as well, making dry places even drier and wet ones too wet. It is time for us all to act!

Further information

Download 'Hidden Waters' - Waterwise report on Embedded water

Average Brit downs 3600 pints a week, reveals new Waterwise report

The Financial Times, 18 August 2006

Business Life: Declining water supply brings a deluge of ideas

By Mike Scott

The Independent, 29 April 2006
The real cost of a bag of salad: You pay 99p. Africa pays 50 litres of fresh water
By Jeremy Laurance, Health Editor

You can calculate your own personal water footprint at www.waterfootprint.org

University of South Australia, Centre for Comparative Water Policies and Laws - Virtual water trading in developing countries.