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Food,clothes,cars ‘biggest water footprints in households’

Study says item or service purchased by a household has a long line of water usage.

Written by Agencies | Melbourne | November 15, 2011 11:29:44 am

Food,clothes and cars leave the biggest water footprints in a household,says a new study.

Researchers say people are very aware of using water-efficient appliances in their houses,having shorter showers and not leaving taps running,but the water usage involved with creating power and other goods and services consumed by their households,is far more significant and alarming.

“In order to produce any item,from a pair of jeans to a toaster,water is required to obtain raw materials,in the manufacturing process,in transportation and to sell the item. Every item or service purchased by a household has a long line of resources and water usage,” lead researcher Robert Crawford at the University of Melbourne said.

According to the researchers,the indirect water usage of an entire household over 50 years,which includes construction and maintenance of the house,all belongings,food,clothing and other consumable items,financial services,cars and even holidays,is equivalent to filling 54 Olympic swimming pools.

This represents 94 per cent of a household’s water footprint.

In contrast,the direct water used by households – for drinking,washing,showering,watering,cooking and cleaning — is equivalent to only four Olympic swimming pools,or 6 per cent of the household’s water demand over 50 years.

“We don’t tend to think about the resources that have gone into making the products that we purchase on an everyday basis. The more clothes we buy,the more food we eat,the more water we consume.

“While of course it’s important for households to continue to reduce direct water usage,choosing to buy second hand clothing and furniture,minimising food wastage and cutting down on electricity use will have a much greater impact on reducing a household’s water footprint.

“Many people upgrade dishwashers and washing machines to save water,however it is important to also think about the water involved with producing these items. Sometimes this water demand may outweigh the potential water savings,” Dr Crawford said.

The findings have been published in the latest edition of the ‘Building Research & Information’ journal.

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