Solutions / Water

Water Footprinting Basics

Our water footprint is comprised of all of the visible and invisible water we use throughout the day. Learn what you can do to reduce yours.

Water Footprinting Basics


While turning off the faucet, taking shorter showers, and transforming our grass lawns into native habitats can conserve hundreds of gallons per week, this is only the tip of the iceberg.

The truth is, the water used inside our homes and outside in our landscapes accounts for only 10% of our total consumption, while the remaining 90% remains invisible to the eye. We call this our water footprint, and taking personal responsibility for reducing it is the most effect path towards positive change.

What is a water footprint?

A ‘footprint,’ in general, has become known as a quantitative measure showing the appropriation of natural resources by a human being. In relationship to water, it represents the water necessary to produce a product. On average, agricultural products account for 70% of our fresh water use, industrial products 20%, and as previously mentioned, residential use for the remaining 10%.

For example

Let’s look at the average cotton t-shirt. The journey a t-shirt makes from cotton plant to retail store shelves is long and water-intensive. It begins with the farmer who grows the cotton. Then, machines pick, clean, and spin the cotton into thread. The thread is made into cloth, then the cloth is dyed, cut, and sown into a t-shirt. Lastly, the shirt goes into a cardboard box and is shipped to stores. Every step of this journey, from growing the cotton to powering the machines to making the cardboard box, requires water—almost 650 gallons in total.

What’s more astounding is the water required by the foods we eat—meat production being the largest. It requires nearly 630 gallons of water to raise, process, and transport the meat for just one burger—with majority of this water use going to grow the animal feed (source). Think that’s a lot? It requires over 4,000 to produce one steak (source).

The drought in Southern California is a problem of this generation. The good news is, solutions exist, and if we commit to these solutions, we can alleviate this problem for future generations. Here’s five ways you can be part of the solution today:

5 tips to reduce your water footprint.

1. Purchase and use a reusable water bottle: 6 gallons/day

2. Turn off the lights and replace incandescent bulbs with CFLs or LEDs: 5 gallons/day

3. Take care of the things you have so they last longer: 100’s of gallons/week

4. Swap a meat-based meal for a veggie-based meal one time per week: 1,000 gallons/week

5. Grow your own food, or buy organic food from your local farmer’s market: 150 gallons/day

More solutions to cut your water footprint in half.