Water Conservation Tips

Overall, the average American uses about 2,000 gallons of water a day – about twice the global average. Our diets make up about half of our water footprint, transportation and electricity about 20 percent, home water use about 10 percent, and clothes and material goods another 10 percent. By making some simple and wise choices, we can each shrink our personal water footprint.

Our Diets

  • One of the easiest ways to shrink your water footprint is to reduce food waste. Throwing away an apple is like sending the 33 gallons it took to grow that apple down the drain! So whether at the grocery store or on the buffet line, take only what you’ll eat.
  • A typical quarter pounder takes about as much water as you use at home in a week! Consider eating beef less often, or in smaller portions. Or choose sustainably raised, grass-fed beef.
  • On average, the diet of a vegan – someone who doesn’t eat meat or dairy – takes about 600 gallons of water a day less than a person who eats the average American diet. So even trimming meat and dairy consumption a bit can save a good deal of water.
  • A cup of coffee takes 34 gallons of water to make, with nearly all those gallons consumed in growing the coffee beans. Make and take only as much coffee as you’ll drink!

Energy and Transportation

  • Light from a 60-watt bulb can require 5 gallons of water an hour. Turn off lights when leaving a room to save electricity and water.
  • A gallon of gasoline takes nearly 13 gallons of water to produce. Combine your errands, carpool to work, or take public transportation to reduce both your energy and water use. A cross-country airplane trip (about 6,000 miles) could require water equal to more than 1,700 standard toilet flushes.

Home Water Use

  • More than half of our household water footprint can go toward lawn and garden maintenance. Choose drought-tolerant plants instead of water-guzzling grasses.
  • On average, 10 gallons per day of your water footprint (or 14% of your indoor use) is due to leaky toilets and fixtures. Short of installing new water-efficient fixtures, one of the easiest, most effective ways to cut your footprint is by repairing leaks.
  • If you use a low-flow showerhead, you can save 15 gallons of water during a 10-minute shower.
  • About one-fifth of indoor home water use comes from doing laundry. Save water by washing full loads.

Clothes and Miscellaneous Products

  • Producing a simple cotton shirt takes about 700 gallons, mostly because cotton is a thirsty crop often grown in dry places. Consider whether you really need that extra T-shirt!
  • The water required to create your laptop could wash nearly 70 loads of laundry in a standard machine. Consider whether you really need that new gadget or device upgrade.
  • One of the best ways to conserve water is to buy recycled or upcycled goods, and to recycle your stuff when you’re done with it.

Source: Tips adapted from National Geographic’s Water Footprint Calculator, with additions and updates from Sandra Postel, National Geographic’s Freshwater Fellow and Change the Course Co-Creator, and the Water Footprint Network’s Product Gallery.