Do you know how much water you use on a daily basis? Have you heard of virtual water? Did you know that water is used to create nearly every product out there, including our food? Last Water Wednesday, we invited the Sustainable Ag and Food Systems Agent, Morgan Pinkerton, and the Florida-Friendly Landscaping Agent, Tina McIntyre, to talk about the virtual water concept and how it is used to measure our water use.
What is virtual water?
Virtual water is the total amount of water use to make a product. We sometimes will refer to this as the invisible water that we use. The average person uses around 1,800 gallons/day of virtual water. At this rate, our supply of clean freshwater is quickly depleting.
There are three main types of water that make up virtual water: blue, green and grey water.
- Blue water is what we normally think of as water. It is the water we drink, the water found in the aquifer below us, our lakes, rivers and streams, and the water we use in our homes.
- Green water is water that is stored in the soil or plants. This water comes down as rain and is taken up by plants where it is used to grow or produce fruits/flowers.
- Grey water is water that has become polluted in some way. It is no longer water that we can readily consume or use. For example, when you wash your clothes, the dirty, soapy water that is left after the wash is grey water. Reclaimed water that municipalities use to water lawns is a large-scale form of gray water because it is made from wastewater flushed from our toilets.
The food that we eat contains virtual water which contributes to how much water we use every day. You may think that one cup of coffee will take one cup of water to make, but it is actually more like 592 cups of water. Why is this? The coffee beans that were ground up to produce your cup of coffee came from a plant. That plant took about 3 to 4 years to produce those coffee beans, meanwhile the plant needed water to survive and grow. When we consider the food we eat, on top of all the water we use, our daily water consumption in pretty steep.
What can you do to conserve water?
Florida does not have enough water to sustain population growth and development if we do not change how we use our water. Watch the Water Wednesday recording – Does Florida Have Enough Water?
There are a few simple things we can all do at home to save water:
- Limit water use to when it is necessary;
- Install water efficient devices and appliances;
- Use a reusable water bottle for drinking water;
- Think about the foods you are eating and their virtual water cost;
- Support local farming;
- Use Florida-Friendly Landscaping and select plants that need less irrigation; remember irrigation is a supplement to the rain fall, not the other way around;
- Collect rainwater for watering your lawns/plants;
- Calibrate your irrigation system with the catch-can method
- Educate yourself about water issues and conservation practices;
Watch the recording to learn more about virtual water:
To watch other Water Wednesday recordings, please visit UF IFAS Extension – Water Resources YouTube Channel.