Measure Your Water Footprint


What do you think of when you hear the term “water footprint”? Do you think of the water you drink from the tap? The water you use for doing the dishes or for showering? This is the so-called “direct water footprint”, but the vast majority of our water footprint is actually composed of the “virtual water footprint” - the water usage that is inherent in our consumption.  This can be just about anything, from the jeans we buy, all the burgers we eat, the heating in our homes, the transport we use and even the water saved from the paper and plastics we recycle!

Our new cotton T-shirt costs 700 gallons of water. It takes over 80 000 gallons to produce the finished steel for one car. On top of that, there is the gasoline in our cars; it takes a lot of water to produce gasoline! Approximately 1 to 2.5 gallons of water for one gallon of gasoline! And did you know that the food we eat comprises over ⅔ of our entire water footprint? Indeed! This is especially true for meat - a single pound of beef takes 1800 gallons of water! This is so because of the water spent on the beef’s food (growing the grass, forage), as well as the water the beef consumes itself. 

Becoming aware of how we use and reuse things as well as cutting down on our consumption of goods are important steps towards reducing our water footprint. We can save up to 3.5 gallons of water by just recycling one daily newspaper! In this activity, we’ll try to explore different ways of decreasing our water footprint.

Activity Type

Experiential / Individual


3 days

Learning Outcomes

  • To learn how to decrease our water footprint


  1. Do research on the internet on how you could save water. This should include both direct water-saving and virtual water-saving. For example, doing the dishes by filling the sink or a dishpan with water rather than running the water continuously, taking a 4-minute shower instead of a longer one, closing the tap when you brush your teeth, rainwater collection systems at a household level, maybe even try to “let it mellow” in the bathroom etc in terms of direct water conservation. More importantly, try to decrease your virtual water footprint. For instance, cut down on  or if possible, eliminate cars and buses from your daily routine for 3 days and use your bike only, try to recycle as much as possible, try not to buy plastic products and why not, maybe go vegan for 3 days!

  2. Chose 3 different water-saving practices that make a difference in your water footprint and stick to these practices for 3 days.

  3. After the termination of these 3 days, reflect back - think about what the must-haves are and what you could eliminate? Make a list, maybe you like meat but you could give up on or reduce the amount of beef you consume (as beef is the biggest water consumer)? Or maybe you need to drive to work but you could consider shared rides? Try to find compromises to which you stick in the long-term, remember - it is not about completely giving up on things, but rather, trying to reduce our overall consumption!



  • Did you discover new things when doing this activity?

  • Do you feel like you don’t need the water that you managed to save while adopting a water-saving practice?

  • Do you see the connection between our daily habits and the water used by other ecosystems and people in other places?

Instructions for Submission

Submit a short summary on what you think the easiest and most difficult water-saving technique was for you. Instructions on how to upload photos and how to submit things in Moodle can be found here: Instructions on Submission&Uploading

Instructions for Assessment

Provide feedback to at least one participant that has done this activity. Instructions on providing feedback can be found here: Instructions on Feedback

Tried an activity? Give us feedback!

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