UK must help poorer countries curb water use

May 20, 2010 at 10:55 am

When we are told that the UK’s water use is not sustainable we might think that we can solve the problem by taking measures such as showering instead of having a bath, or using the eco-wash on the washing machine and dishwasher. Domestic use, however, is just the tip of the iceberg and represents just 3% of the water usage for which we are responsible.

Just as we have all become familiar with the concept of the carbon footprint in recent years, we will now have to start considering our water footprint, according to a recent report by the Engineering the Future Alliance.

The report highlights the fact that two thirds of the water used to produce goods for consumption in the UK is used outside the country, mainly in developing countries which have a shortage of water for their own populations.

It goes on to stress that the UK has a duty to help poorer countries reduce their use of water, given the fact that there are around one billion people in these countries who do not even have access to a safe supply of drinking water.

The average person in the UK uses the equivalent of a large bath of water a day (about 150 litres). When one considers that a tee shirt has about 2,000 litres of water embedded in it (i.e. this is the amount of water used to grow the cotton and to manufacture the item) and a kilo of steak a staggering 15,000 litres, it becomes easy to see just why Professor Roger Falconer of Cardiff University says that the UK must start to consider the impact of its water footprint on the rest of the world.

The report will certainly provide food for thought next time you pick up a pack of Kenyan beans in the supermarket.

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