A Year Ago on Zero Resource – September 2010

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Water Conservation Calculators


Image: Wikimedia Commons

In honor of  World Water Day March 22, here is a list of  online Water Conservation Calculators:

H20 Conserve Calculator

This calculator is less a predictor of actual water usage than a comprehensive look at daily habits that affect water use.

Water Use Calculator

Manufacturer Kohler, has a simple online calculator to estimate your home water usage against the U.S. average

H2Ouse Calculator

This is a more nuts-and-bolts calculator that will let you plug in your actual water usage (from your water bills) along with home appliance and landscaping details to come up with an overall “water budget”.

Water Footprint Calculator

A calculator that extends past showering and watering the lawn to detailed information on food consumption by food-type.

Happy World Water Day!

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Water Footprint Calculator


The National Geographic website has a water footprint calculator that walks you through very basic aspects of your lifestyle and give you a sense of how much water you use at home, to produce your diet, to produce the stuff you buy, and to produce the fuel you need to travel. And it compares your use to the American average for each category. Check it out here!

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Virtual Water


This post is part of our definitions series on “eco-lingo” and technical terms.

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Virtual water (also referred to as embodied water) is the volume of fresh water used to produce a product at the location of production. This concept of virtual water applies to everything we use or buy, such as clothes, electronics, food, and building materials. For example, the average virtual water associated with 1 egg would be 53 gallons.

(For those familiar with energy issues, this is similar to embodied energy.)

The creator of the virtual water concept, Professor John Anthony Allan, was initially researching agricultural water issues in the Middle East and concluded that the region could survive with scarce water because it was importing large amounts of “virtual water” embedded in its food imports.

You can hear a podcast of Professor Allan’s seminar on virtual water here.

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What exactly does “sustainability” mean? How about “green”, “eco” or “environmentally friendly”? The truth is that these terms are just vague enough to mean many different things to many different people. With the staggering array of “green” products, ‘lifestyles’ and concepts being promoted by marketers and environmentalists alike (as well as the necessary coining of new terms to match new ideas) our definition series aims to make sense of the rising tide of “eco-lingo” and technical terms.

Finding Data – The Water Intensity of Food


Many of us have heard that we should eat locally grown food to reduce the energy needed to transport and preserve the food between the source and our table. Many of us have also heard that we should reduce our meat consumption to reduce the amount of land and other resources needed to support our diets and lifestyles. Another metric to consider is how much water is needed to produce different foods.

Based on values from the Water Footprint Network, I compiled a chart of how much water is needed to produce certain foods. This is obviously not an inclusive list of all foods, but gives an idea of the range of values for different kinds of foods. These values will also differ in different countries and regions. As noted by the director of the Water Footprint Network, Arjen Y. Hoekstra, “Water problems are often closely tied to the structure of the global economy. Many countries have significantly externalised their water footprint, importing water-intensive goods from elsewhere. This puts pressure on the water resources in the exporting regions, where too often mechanisms for wise water governance and conservation are lacking.”

In the table on the left, values are generally for liters per kilogram unless otherwise noted. In the table on the right, values are generally for gallons per pound unless otherwise noted.

You can calculate your own water footprint with this calculator for an estimate of which parts of your diet and lifestyle are most water intensive.