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Public Radio's Environmental News Magazine (follow us on Google News)

Water Calculator

Air Date: Week of

Wenonah Hauter (Courtesy of Food and Water Watch)

The average American guzzles 1,189 gallons of water a day. Want to see how you match up? A new website let's you calculate your daily water footprint- asking you pointed questions about your habits. Host Bruce Gellerman speaks with Wenonah Hauter, executive director of Food and Water Watch, one of the organizations involved in creating the new online tool.


GELLERMAN: Well if toilet to tap isn't exactly your cup of tea, you might want to train yourself to use less water. To learn just how much water you're currently using you can go online to the new website h2oconserve.org.

Wenonah Hauter is executive director of Food and Water Watch—one of four public service organizations that created this nifty online calculator. Welcome to Living on Earth, Wenonah.

HAUTER: I’m glad to be here.

GELLERMAN: Well I have a laptop in the studio here and I’m on your site, h2oconserve.org. There are what 19 questions and, let’s see, I’ve already entered where I live, which ironically I’ve got to tell you, is Watertown, Massachusetts. How many people in my home, okay; how many minutes we spend singing in the shower. Do we turn the water off when brushing our teeth? Do you turn the water off when you brush your teeth?

HAUTER: You know, I do. I’ve become very water conscious.

GELLERMAN: Okay. Well, now it takes me to one—let’s see, ‘do the people in your household let it mellow?’ Hmm, what does that mean?

HAUTER: Well, it means do you flush the toilet every time? Toilets use a lot of water.

GELLERMAN: Well, okay, let’s see. Always, sometimes, never.

HAUTER: Toilets use about 27 percent of the water that we use in the house.

Wenonah Hauter (Courtesy of Food and Water Watch)

GELLERMAN: Well, okay. I’ve answered that question. Do I have a lawn or a garden? I see. Do you have a lawn or garden? You’re in D.C.

HAUTER: Actually I live in a farm in Virginia, so I have a garden and we farm.

GELLERMAN: Alright. Well, let’s see. I’ve answered that one. Do I have a swimming pool? No. Do I have a car? What does a car have to do with my water?

HAUTER: Well, oil and gas takes a lot of water to process and making a car takes water.

GELLERMAN: Okay, it’s asking if I wash my car. One time a year! (laughs)

HAUTER: (laughs)

GELLERMAN: Now it asks what the dietary habits of the people in the household are. What does that have to do—whether I eat meat or dairy?

HAUTER: Well, you know, the way that we eat it really determines how much water we’re using. If you’re eating imported fruits or vegetables from someplace like Mexico or Chile or even California, that’s almost virtual water trade because it takes a lot of water to produce those crops. Meat takes the most water to produce. If you look at something like beef—it takes about 60 gallons of water to produce a pound of corn. Cows eat a lot of corn and it also takes water for them to be cleaned, for the meat to be processed, for them to drink. And so each pound of beef takes about 1500 gallons of water to produce. So the choices that you make—if you eat lower on the food chain, grains and vegetables—you’re using less water.

GELLERMAN: Well here I’ve finished! It says, ‘you’ve completed the calculator.’ Here are my results: ‘your total household water use is 32 hundred and 52 gallons per day. Individual use is eight hundred and 13 gallons per day.’ 32 hundred and 52 gallons a day for four people?!

HAUTER: Well your individual use is below the national average, which is one thousand one hundred and 89 gallons a day. Americans use a lot of water. Contrast that with someone who lives in Ethiopia who uses just over a gallon a day. The World Health Organization says that to have any kind of decent standard of living, a person needs 12 to 13 gallons a day and for developing countries to have sustainable development, they need twice that. So you can see that we’re using a lot of water and becoming water conscious is very important.

GELLERMAN: You have some tips here on how to reduce my water footprint. And give me two tips—really things that I could do right away, not going to cost me a lot of money but that are going to save me a lot of water.

HAUTER: Well, you can reduce the amount of water that you use in your house by investing in a low-flow toilet or by putting a plastic bottle filled with water in your toilet tank. Those are the types of things around your household. Recycling is also one way that you can meet a number of goals—reducing the amount of trash in the landfill, and using less water on manufactured products.

GELLERMAN: Hey, Wenonah, how much water do you use a day?

HAUTER: You know, I use about 900 gallons because I have a car, because I live in the country and drive into Washington—that’s one of my bigger water uses.

GELLERMAN: Well, I beat you!

HAUTER: (laughs) You sure did!

GELLERMAN: Well thank you, Wenonah. Appreciate it very much.

HAUTER: Okay. Thank you.

GELLERMAN: Wenonah Hauter is the executive director of Food and Water Watch based in Washington, D.C. You can find a link to the h2oconserve website at loe.org.



H2O Conserve- the site that features the water calculator

Food and Water Watch


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