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What’s Your Water Footprint?

“Hello, is this the water supply department?”

“Yes, can I help you?”

“My taps are dry since this morning… lah, no water.”

“…the water flow is so low in this area” was another complaint of a consumer from a different area.

“…my tap water is cloudy and smelly too” was the cry of another consumer.

Thus, the complaints keep surging in day by day. The water supply board is choked. The distribution network becomes crazy. The engineers and supervisors of the supply system work hard to set it right by finding a fair solution.

Yes, the city population keeps increasing with more and more people are thronging to settle in urban areas. The rapid increase in the city’s population exceeds the speed of planning and development. The urban populace has to share and pull on with the existing supplies. It is a task for the authorities supplying to the growing demand.

People blame the government and city councils for the shortage and outage in supplies that occur on and off, if not frequently. The current rate of urbanisation drives the supply system crazy.

Well, with the burgeoning city population, what’s the most felt basic need to improve? Obviously water! Yes, a clean supply of water is what everyone needs.

Before we go any further to talk about clean water supply, let us put a few questions to ourselves. Are we water conscious? Do we teach our children the water sense? Do we have the water sense ourselves? Have we ever given a thought to the growing clean water shortage? Do we follow the water preserving techniques in our routines?

The global water stock never dries off. Water never dies. True, but what about clean water? We dare not say clean water never dies. A few decades back, clean water was in abundance. The water in the streams, lakes and waterways needed little treatment to consume. Now, we are confined to bottled water for drinking. Yes, the water around us has lost the credulity of being clean. We don’t want to risk consuming the natural water around us.

Let’s see some interesting water facts here:

According to a recent survey, every Malaysian consumes about 2,103 cubic metres of water per year. This is called per capita water footprint. It means the water used up by every person in a year. It includes water consumed for cooking, drinking, washing and cleaning. This amount is further classified into domestic and external footprint. The domestic footprint means the water we directly use for different purposes at home. The external footprint is the water used up indirectly for manufacturing something that we consume.

For a developing country like Malaysia, the water usage can be categorised as lavish. We consume more than the global average water footprint, i.e., 1,240 m3/year/percapita. To put it in simple terms, the average use of water by a Malaysian is 225 litres a day. Compared to our neighbour Singapore, our consumption rate is 45% or 71 litres more. Yes, an average Singaporean consumes 156 litres a day. Well, what about our northern neighbour, Thailand? We are still higher by 135% than Thailand. Yes, according to a recent report, an average Thai consumes just 90 litres of water a day.

Let us see how and what for we use up this amount of water:

1. Toilets

The toilets are the top ranking water guzzlers in a household. More or less 26% of a day’s water drains away from the toilets.

2. Washing machine

Washing clothes tops next to the toilets (22%) in a household. Nice, we are tidy in our apparels. Let’s also be thrifty in using our washers. There are ways to spend less water for washing.

3. Shower

Most of us take shower twice or more in a day, due to the humid tropical climate. In a household, more or less 17% of the day’s water is used up for showering.

4. Cleaning

We are generous in spending water for various cleaning and washing activities. It includes water spent for gardening and washing our cars too. Though this kind of water usage is not routine, it still takes up some 16% of the daily consumption.

5. Leaks

Somewhere there are leaks in our household plumbing system. We have no time to repair it at once. We take these leaks for granted. We normally think the leak is, after all, water. Water doesn’t cost much. “Let me call the plumber sometime later.” By this way, we lose some 15% of our daily water consumption. Yes, literally, we don’t spend this water. We just waste it.

6. Household cleaning

We clean floors and wash vegetables in the kitchen for cooking. By this way, a little 2% of our daily water is spent.

7. Baths

Fortunately, most of us don’t bathe so frequently. Bathtubs are huge water guzzlers. Yet, on the average, we use up some 2% for baths.

The global demand for fresh water increases by 64 billion cubic metre a year. The demand comes from some multi-pronged sectors. The worldwide agriculture sectors already consume almost 70% of the available water. Quite recently, rapid industrialisation guzzles or demands an increased quantum of water available for other purposes. We have increased our fresh water withdrawal three times in the past 50 years. The global population is increasing by 80 million a year, placing greater demand for greater consumption of fresh water.

The recent changes in the lifestyle and eating patterns are another cause to demand more water for survival.

At the advent of introducing biofuel, the demand for fresh water is steadily increasing. Roughly, 1,000 to 4,000 litres of water is needed to produce one litre of biofuel.

Following is an interesting list of water expanded for making or manufacturing certain things.

Water footprint of some of our global partners

  • China seems to be well balanced with the water footprint. Each person in China is able to manage with just 86 litres of water a day. The total water footprint per capita/year is reported to be 700 m3.
  • The United States tops the list of global water footprint. The country stands at 2,480 cubic meter percapita/year.
  • The United Kingdom requires 1,695 cubic meter of water per year percapita.
  • India, the second largest populous country in the world, could manage with 1,089 m3 per person per year.
  • Indonesia’s percapita water footprint per year stands at 1,124 m3.
  • Every Japanese citizens requires 1,379 m3 of water per year. However, nearly 77% of their water is being outsourced from other countries.

How we can help reduce our own water footprint?

1. Go vegetarian as much as possible

Vegetable foods come out of consuming less water than animal food. Think of shifting to vegetarian, at least one or two days a week, if not totally. Health experts say vegetarian foods save us from many troubles.

2. Avoid processed food as much as possible

Processing and packaging take additional water than consuming fresh foods from the farms. Why not try to be less dependent on processed food? It’s worth spending time looking out for farm food suppliers around.

3. Slowly phase out dependence on bottled water

“I always go for bottled water,” you say. Good, you are clean-water-conscious. Let’s not conflict on this point. However, let us remember a fact. One bottle of water comes out of taking three bottles of water in the factory. Hence, reduce consuming bottled water wherever possible. Try carrying a water bottle from home. Boil water at home and fill in your own bottle. It’s more hygienic than any other water. However, it’s advisable to consume bottled water while you are far away from home (e.g., travelling).

4. Close the running tap

When you wash hands, just wet the hands and lather up closing the tap. Once you finish with your rubbing, open the tap for washing. This simple practice saves quite a lot of water.

5. Keep your tap at low flow

Practice keeping the tap at low or adequate flow. It helps to save a great deal of water. Heavy flow with high pressure is unnecessary for just washing the hands.

6. Dual flush

An old flush tank spends 10 to 12 litres of water for every activation. A modern flush tank takes only 7 litres to do the same job. You save more or less 58% of water using a 7 litres tank.

7. Water check

Go around looking for any leak in your household plumbing system. A drop a second aggregates to 9,000 litres in a year. If you are too busy, assign someone at home to go around for a periodic water leak check-up.

8. Washing clothes

Prefer to use a front loading washer. Wait until enough clothes to collect for washing at one go. Remember, washing machine is the second largest water guzzler at home.

9. Go paperless as much as you can

According to ‘Docusense’, one sheet of A4 paper consumes 10 litres of water cumulatively to come to your desk. It includes the tree taking up water for growing and eventually going to the paper mill where huge amount of water is used up for making paper.

There are a hundred and one ways to reduce your water footprint. Just browse the net and see which technique is most appropriate to your environment.

Talk to your folks about the importance of water. Make them realise the dangers of clean water scarcity. Give them the ‘water sense’. After air, water is the most essential survival need. Where there is no water, there is no life.

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