Your water footprint

Now carbon footprints are firmly established as policy-drivers, how about other imaginary footprints we’ll have to endure? Your water footprint is one the EU seems keen to make more of.

Our individual water footprint is the sum of the water footprints of all the goods and services we consume. According to scientists from the University of Twente in the Netherlands, the global average water footprint per consumer between 1996 and 2005 was 3800 l/day (1385 m³/year). The average figure for a German consumer was 3900 l/day (1426 m³/year) and for a Spanish consumer was 6700 l/day (2461 m³/year). An average Danish consumer had a footprint of 4500 l/day (1635 m³/year) while the figure in Poland was 3800 l/day (1405 m³/year).

What the study also revealed was that our pattern and volume of consumption has a direct impact on our water footprint. Someone who drinks a lot of coffee and regularly eats meat, for example, is likely to have a much higher water footprint than a vegetarian who drinks tap water.

So now we know – a water-drinking vegetarian is the ideal EU citizen. Or at least the ideal child or grandchild if generationawake is anything to go by. Generation AWAKE seems to be one of those EU educational initiatives aimed at every aspect of daily domestic life, including water usage. For example:


Do you have to eat meat with every meal?

It is a fact that eating less meat will reduce the environmental impact of your diet. But do you know the reasons why? Livestock rearing has an impact on valuable natural habitats and puts biodiversity and sustainable land use under pressure.

How clean is your towel?

A towel is for drying you once you are clean, so it gets wet, not dirty. That means you can use towels several times before they go in the laundry basket.

Why not have a shower instead of a bath?

We need to get used to the fact that water is a limited resource.


Water probably is wasted in the UK, but only because many properties are still unmetered and the underground pipes are leaky. Water meters won’t sort out the leaky pipes, but when it comes to water management, wasn’t there such as thing as subsidiarity – that almost forgotten EU lie?

The principle of subsidiarity is defined in Article 5 of the Treaty on European Union. It ensures that decisions are taken as closely as possible to the citizen and that constant checks are made to verify that action at Union level is justified in light of the possibilities available at national, regional or local level. Specifically, it is the principle whereby the Union does not take action (except in the areas that fall within its exclusive competence), unless it is more effective than action taken at national, regional or local level.

As the UK is an island state, water policy is a glaringly obviously candidate for purely national policy-making, yet as well as our water footprint, we also have the EU Water Framework Directive.

The supply of water is a practical matter based on well-established technology, but the notion of a water footprint is of course political. However it sits on a more practical base than carbon footprints because less dodgy science is involved and there is less necessity for outright fraud to sustain the argument.

It just needs a touch of exaggeration and some slippery assumptions.  I think we’ll get plenty of those.

12 comments for “Your water footprint

  1. May 25, 2012 at 7:47 am

    Water footprint? What bollocks. I tried making a water footprint and all that happened was I sank. It has to be snow for it to work and the warble gloaming means we’ll never get any again. Well, other than the foot of it that just fell on Victoria’s ski fields last night, more than a fortnight before the start of the ski season. 😯

  2. May 25, 2012 at 8:06 am

    “So now we know – a water-drinking vegetarian is the ideal EU citizen.”

    With a barcode. 🙁

  3. Single Acts of Tyranny
    May 25, 2012 at 10:29 am

    “We need to get used to the fact that water is a limited resource”

    No, we need to accept that water is in fact two thirds of the fucking planet and is the least limited ‘resource’ that there is. We need to accept that for all practical purposes, water is unlimited if we simply choose to collect it and put our waste water through the long-established technology of sewage treatment. We need to accept that this is a deliberate and pernicious policy of impoverishment and rationing from people who claim the opposite motives.

    We need to accept the fact that the EU will simply repeat and repeat and repeat again a big lie, ram it down our kids throats via vile ‘education’ propaganda.

    We need to accept the fact that instead of accepting, unquestioned, total nonsense from ideologically driven clowns, we need to apply simple logic, disregard this idiocy and then decide if we want to continue giving £50 million a day to these ****s.

    • Lord T
      May 28, 2012 at 5:59 pm

      Not much opportunity for a sin tax in there.

  4. ivan
    May 25, 2012 at 12:18 pm

    It is just another attempt to collect a tax from us just like the ‘carbon’ tax.

  5. May 25, 2012 at 1:33 pm

    Blah blah blah

    Scientists say the notoriously dry continent of Africa is sitting on a vast reservoir of groundwater.

    They argue that the total volume of water in aquifers underground is 100 times the amount found on the surface

  6. nisakiman
    May 25, 2012 at 4:35 pm

    The solution is obvious. We get Al Gore to set up a water credit trading system. He’s very good at that sort of thing.

  7. May 25, 2012 at 9:51 pm

    As SOAT points out, there is plenty of water and it falls from the sky for free, it’s just needs storing and cleaning up a bit, which costs a few pence per cubic metre, or whatever. However, it’s clearly not the least limited resource, I’m sure there’s more air than water (and plenty more rocks than either).

    So can I hereby trademark the phrase “air footprint”? It’s a limited resource, it’s vital for life etc.

    • David A. Evans
      May 26, 2012 at 12:08 am

      By molar, there’s far more water than air, so yes, we should restrict our air usage!

  8. Greg Tingey
    May 26, 2012 at 8:45 am

    The supply of water IS a well-established technology
    UNTIL Guvmint fucks it up.
    So they can’t do (“too difficult”) the simple job of building long0distance pipelines from where there’s lots of water (Kielder) to where there isn’t (London)
    Yes it would cost, but it’s only money.
    Engineers have solutions, and the politicians are not interested.

  9. Dave K
    May 27, 2012 at 10:40 am

    The agenda is obvious, make the people believe that energy and water are in short supply and get together with utilities to arrange shortages and then charge until the pips squeek (ps Don’t forget to cancel at least 5 reservoir projects). Always point at invisible things for evidence (low levels in aquifiers).

    I’m glad I don’t live in a city as you are probably heading for this:

    • May 27, 2012 at 11:06 pm

      Too angry to comment on the ‘water footprint’, especially after having read only the intro to the Spiegel article (highlights mine):

      ‘The energy-saving light bulb ends up as hazardous waste, too much insulation promotes mold and household drains are emitting a putrid odor because everyone is saving water. Many of Germany’s efforts to protect the environment are a chronic failure, but that’s unlikely to change.’

      Stop the madness!

      Solution: buy halogen lightbulbs instead of energy-saving ones, be very careful when buying insulation, especially an outer ‘styrofoam’ solution for the outer bricks (a no-no!), and use water as necessary. Get the ‘car wash’ chaps to abstain from business for a couple of days every week, not the consumer.

      Forecast for this week: pouring rain for at least a couple of days.

      For those with old houses (Victorian and older), subscribe to William Morris’s SPAB (Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings) — £36 per annum. They have courses and books on natural and effective preservation methods. Someone living near us has covered one wall of his Victorian house with a new styrofoam ‘insulation’. He will be sorry.

      Re towels — eventually, they become dirty; test with a light-coloured towel and watch the dirt / stain accumulate. You might be able to stretch to a fortnightly laundering, but not much longer than that.

      The greater concern is that people will stop washing their hands after going to the loo.

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