Taking A Closer Look At Our Footprints

By Dr. Mark LeChevallier – December 18, 2012 – Comment

There are many buzz words that exist in the environmental world: “going green”, “greenhouse gases”, and certainly “carbon footprint”. We build cars, buildings, and soon our entire country around the idea that we should reduce carbon emissions. As well we should, but there are other environmental factors that are critical to sustaining a green future. You may recall in one of my blogs earlier this year I wrote about the concept of a water footprint.

Before I refresh your memory on that topic, I think we can all safely agree upon my deep interest in the environment, conservation, and water. According to a recent report by Xylem, The Value of Water, it seems as though the majority of America might actually be almost as interested in water as me. However, one thing to note about the report is that while many Americans are aware of the issues facing our water, most are not sure of why exactly these issues exist.

One of the biggest mysteries to Americans is their water footprint. In the Xylem report, most Americans estimated that their daily water consumption was about 50 gallons, when the average American actually uses double that per day. We’re blissfully unaware of the hundreds of gallons of water it takes to run our lives, and that is part of your water footprint.

Let’s go back to talking about carbon footprints for a minute. If a person, or a business, is really concerned about their carbon footprint, they can purchase a carbon offset that will, as the name states, offset their high emissions with an investment in a more sustainable form of energy. The most common investments are in renewable energy, like wind power.

So what does this have to do with water? Well, many people don’t know exactly how water prices are regulated. One of the main factors contributing to price is the water source. How far is the water traveling to you? What is the quality of the water in the source and by extension how much energy will it take to purify that water? Again I will reference the Xylem report, which has found that Americans are willing to pay a little more for their water, if it means that there will be increased investments into water infrastructure improvements. As much as people are willing to offset their carbon footprint, they are also willing to directly give a little more to help their water footprint.

Your water footprint is a complex system that revolves all around how much water you use, and where that water is coming from. While carbon footprints have become a more regular part of national conversation, it’s time to do the same for your water footprint.