Every drop counts!
September 23, 2011 11:07 AM   Subscribe

National Geographic's Water Footprint Calculator

The average American lifestyle is fueled by nearly 2,000 gallons of H2O a day. What may come as a surprise is that very little of that — only five percent — runs through toilets, taps, and garden hoses at home. Nearly 95 percent of your water footprint is hidden in the food you eat, energy you use, products you buy, and services you rely on.
posted by crunchland (29 comments total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
1756, bitches! I got a negative number under "stuff". I think this is because I'm poor.
posted by phunniemee at 11:19 AM on September 23, 2011

Famous locations in the US apparently include The White House, The Grand Canyon, and Oprah.
posted by Uppity Pigeon #2 at 11:20 AM on September 23, 2011

"When you saw only 1.6 gallons per flush,
it was then that I installed a low-flow toilet."
-- the Landlord
posted by griphus at 11:23 AM on September 23, 2011

Wow, much of it going towards raising meat.
posted by goethean at 11:24 AM on September 23, 2011

How many people live in your home?
{step:1,min:1,max:10, value:10, appendsymbol:''}

You guess wrong, simple-minded, broken program.
posted by DU at 11:24 AM on September 23, 2011 [2 favorites]

Surely only one person actually has a water footprint... and even that is only substantiated through unreliable sources...
posted by hippybear at 11:25 AM on September 23, 2011 [2 favorites]

I don't drive, which apparently means I use as much water as someone who drives a car that gets 1 mpg, such as an antique hearse or that thing they used to move the Space Shuttles to the launchpad.
posted by theodolite at 11:28 AM on September 23, 2011 [3 favorites]

I like the idea of these calculators, but the implementation is invariably stupid. Food calculator is broken and keeps saying I use 1056 gallons/day (the exact average). I go in and move the sliders up and down, and suddenly I'm only using 600 gallons a day (somewhat more plausible). Depending on what order I move the sliders around, going from 1 to 0 cups of coffee per day reduces my water usage by anywhere from 45 to 75 gallons.

This is junk. Also, I am not 10. A prime example of why it's hard to get people to take green issues seriously.
posted by anigbrowl at 11:39 AM on September 23, 2011 [1 favorite]

My car accounts for more than half of my water usage. That's depressing.
posted by joannemerriam at 11:41 AM on September 23, 2011

1,286. Does this mean I can take longer showers?
posted by elizardbits at 11:41 AM on September 23, 2011

1981, though, it's really up to the apartment management to replace the plumbing.

I started doing more baths instead of showers, less for water usage, and more for the fact the vaporized water was screwing up my throat.
posted by yeloson at 11:46 AM on September 23, 2011

Durr: 984.

Accidentally looked at "average total" instead of my total average. Good job there.
posted by yeloson at 11:47 AM on September 23, 2011

vegetarian diet gains are offset by flying a few times a year to environmental science meetings, ironically.
posted by bendybendy at 11:48 AM on September 23, 2011 [2 favorites]

Annnd, I can't use it because it's US only. Seriously irritating.
posted by LN at 11:51 AM on September 23, 2011

I used a sample address just across the border from where I live in Canada, and apparently consume about 1300 gallons a month (I closed the tab before I actually decided to post here, not going through that AGAIN).

About half of that total was devoted to "travel", which was seriously weird considering I don't own a car (0 miles) and I never fly (0 flights). Something like 600 gallons a day was counted for this category, and I couldn't lower any of it!

Either they're being clever and including baseline things like road infrastructure that EVERYONE counts towards, or the quiz is seriously broken. Some background info on what non-modifiable sources of consumption count towards your total would be nice, if they exist.

(This quiz also made it quite clear that reducing my shower and bathroom flushing will not really help in any significant way, and that my current miserly consumption of meat would have to be eliminated COMPLETELY before making a dent)
posted by Nutri-Matic Drinks Synthesizer at 12:01 PM on September 23, 2011 [1 favorite]

I got partway through and stopped because it seemed to be going on forever. That, and there were a million fudge factor sort of answers in there. "How long do you shower for?" I don't know, I don't time them. "How many loads of laundry do you do?" Let me check my laundry log... oh wait, I don't keep one.

These calculators are good at making you feel powerless, though. 2,000 gallons a day, most of which you have no reasonable control over. Great, so why bother trying at all? If I shorten my showers by half I'm down to what, 1,980/day? Seems like it's not worth the trouble.
posted by tylerkaraszewski at 12:38 PM on September 23, 2011

What a weird fucked up program. My score was NaN.
posted by desjardins at 12:44 PM on September 23, 2011

Yeah, I have never quite cottoned on to this "how often do you beat your wife?" approach to these things. Even when I have to start reducing sliders to zero -- no red meat since the eighties, no coffee ever, etc. Yes, I buy books, but they are 90% used books, which seem to be counted the same way as manufacturing new ones. And as with Nutri-Matic Drinks Synthesizer above, I am guessing at a US equivalent to my Canadian neighbourhood from step one, so this quiz could supply me any number, and I would be in no position to disprove it.

Anyway, looks like 644 for this house, but apparently that includes a negative score for Stuff... apparently my lack of attachment to material good produces 32 gallons of water a day.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 12:49 PM on September 23, 2011

What if I start drinking/bathing in my own urine? Would that help?
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 1:03 PM on September 23, 2011

Are we just breaking all of these types of sites today? I get a broken program with "how many people live in your home" as well.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 1:11 PM on September 23, 2011

posted by everichon at 1:19 PM on September 23, 2011

I raise my own beef and I think the water numbers are total bullshit. They must have to do with industrial farms that have to clean their indoor stalls frequently and use irrigated feed crops. I can personally tell you that the only water our cattle use is drinking water. Rain irrigates the grass and the forest they graze in, perhaps they are counting opportunity cost as if I would use the water for something else if I didn't have cattle (the land is unsuitable for growing crops. Are they counting the showers I have to take because of dealing with cow poo?

I suggest reading Simon Fairlie's book Meat: A Benign Extravagance. Here is his takedown of the nonsense numbers.
posted by melissam at 1:22 PM on September 23, 2011

Are they counting the showers I have to take because of dealing with cow poo?

Wait what?

I deal with bullshit online all the time but never shower afterward.

Am I doing it wrong?
posted by hippybear at 1:28 PM on September 23, 2011

Woo. 766 gallons/day. 700 of which don't show up on my water bill. It helps that I hardly eat anything.

Seriously, we almost never use more than 2,000 gallons of domestic water a month, and that's with a dripping faucet and a leaky toilet. All those water efficient appliances paid off, in the sense that I can feel good about not using much water, not financially; $1500 worth of appliances and fixtures saves me maybe $5 a month in water.

I guess I could replace the toilets with low flow, but again, we're talking a $5 a month savings. Perhaps water is too cheap. I don't think so, given that my water bill runs about $50 a month, the vast majority of which is fixed fees. I suppose I'd be encouraged to conserve more if it were the other way around. Of course, then the people who use 20,000 gallons or more a month would scream bloody murder.
posted by wierdo at 1:30 PM on September 23, 2011

Well, my prius and not flying does a great deal of good to my water usage, apparently. In fact, the program told me I was a little dehydrated.
posted by crunchland at 1:37 PM on September 23, 2011

Well, my prius and not flying does a great deal of good to my water usage, apparently.

Yeah, I was pretty surprised at how quickly the travel added up. More than half of my water usage went to travel. 1-2 short flights a year (I said 2), 1 long flight a year, a car that gets not terrible gas mileage that I drive less than 1000 miles a year (but 1000 was the lowest option). And that accounted for nearly 1000 gallons.
posted by phunniemee at 2:11 PM on September 23, 2011

No car, no washing machine, all low-flow faucets and toilet, short showers (5 gallon water heater) very little meat, no travel by air, and a water bill less than 700 gallons a month. I got average. Does not calibrate.
posted by halfbuckaroo at 5:35 PM on September 23, 2011

Instead of complaining about how buggy the tool is, or how it isn't relevant to you personally, I think we should encourage the conversation about water. Even though some of the math may be incorrect, their hearts are in the right place bringing awareness to the insane usage of fresh water by the typical American family.

It pains me that although I am mostly vegetarian, I am locked into an HOA agreement which defies logic in the sense that I have to maintain a lawn. Because of the drought, I will encourage you and your HOA to discuss these issues and start programs that would allow for more native plants.
posted by Monkey0nCrack at 9:43 AM on September 25, 2011

Even though some of the math may be incorrect, their hearts are in the right place bringing awareness to the insane usage of fresh water by the typical American family.

Sure thing, but lying about it to the people who are using your tool isn't the correct way to do this. It ends up making people dismiss the claims when they are told they need to cut back on their water usage, because prior experience shows them that people who tell them those things are lying.

Having your heart in the right place is a great thing, but it's equally important to be fully transparent and honest when providing evidence to support your claims of water overuse. Otherwise, it ends up looking like the boy who cried wolf, and people stop listening.
posted by hippybear at 7:23 AM on September 26, 2011 [1 favorite]

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