How Much Water Do You Use?

By Debra Tan 22 March, 2012

Happy World Water Day! Coffee or Juice? Beer or Wine? Chicken or Cheese? How much water can you save?

Swapping a bath for a 5 min shower could save up to 150 litres of water
A cafe latte could take more than 3 bathtubs of water to make, whereas milk tea is only 0.5 bathtubs
The average water resource per person in China is 25 bathtubs per day

It is World Water Day and everyone is talking about taking shorter showers. In Hong Kong there is an ad about encouraging 5 minute showers ….

A shower uses 2.5 gallons per minute. So a 5 minute shower is 12.5 gallons of water or just under 50 litres (47.3 litres to be precise). Seems like a big water saving compared to taking a bath. An average size bathtub filled is 200 litres of water.

If only if it were that simple, in reality, we are consuming much more water ….

The moment we wake up… breakfast! Breakfast could take up as much as 5.8 bathtubs if we just had two slices of toast with two eggs washed down with glass of apple juice and of course a grande latte to wake us up.

We move on to lunch … we switch from coffee to tea. Drinking tea with a dash of milk, that saves water. But hang on, should we have the chicken or cheese sandwich? In water terms, we can have almost four cheese sandwiches for every one chicken sandwich. Looks like lunch could now be an additional 1.7 to 4.8 bathtubs of water!

Dinner … assuming an unhealthy dinner with no veggies or carbs, an 8oz steak shoots us straight up to 17 bathtubs (or I could have another cheese sandwich). Moving on to a more palatable topic … the choice between wine or beer. Wine seems like the better water-savings option but the beer is a pint after all. Anyway, the choice between wine and beer is insignificant when you compare the water that went into producing the steak.

So in a day just by our choices in these food and beverages, we would have racked up 20-28 bathtubs full of virtual water content on top of our 5 minute shower.

And that is just our food. A simple t-shirt and jeans combo costs us another 68.5 bathtubs of water and we are going to assume that most reading this would be using an electronic device. A computer chip requires around 7,500 litres of ultra-purified water to make – that is at least another 37.5 bathtubs.

When the average water resource per capita of China is 25 bathtubs per day, our consumption choices matter.  Since we all own something made in China, all our choices matter.  The five pairs of jeans we have in the cupboard that we haven’t worn, 275 bathtubs of water wasted.

Depressed? Cheer up … you could always switch from drinking coffee and juice to wine and beer! And this doesn’t mean you should take a longer shower. Every drop counts!

To see how much water Beijing, Shanghai, Chongqing and Tianjin have … click here

Debra Tan
Author: Debra Tan
Debra heads the CWR team and has steered the CWR brand from idea to a leader in the water risk conversation globally. Reports she has written for and with financial institutions analyzing the impact of water risks on the Power, Mining, Agricultural and Textiles industries have been considered groundbreaking and instrumental in understanding not just China’s but future global water challenges. One of these led the fashion industry to nominate CWR as a finalist for the Global Leadership Awards in Sustainable Apparel; another is helping to build consensus toward water risk valuation. Debra is a prolific speaker on water risk delivering keynotes, participating in panel discussions at water prize seminars, numerous investor & industry conferences as well as G2G and academic forums. Before venturing into “water”, she worked in finance, spending over a decade as a chartered accountant and investment banker specializing in M&A and strategic advisory. Debra left banking to pursue her interest in photography and also ran and organized philanthropic and luxury holidays for a small but global private members travel network She has lived and worked in Beijing, HK, KL, London, New York and Singapore and spends her spare time exploring glaciers in Asia.
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