NORTH DURHAM: Many Canadians do not fully understand how much water they use each day. The water used for drinking, showering, washing clothes, and flushing the toilet only accounts for less than a tenth of the water Canadians use each day. Most of the water consumed by Canadians does not come from a faucet, it comes from the food they eat, clothes they wear, and things they buy throughout the day.
The average person living in Canada uses approximately 8000 litres of water a day. Canada ranks second globally for the most water usage per person in the developed world.
An award-winning author and environmentalist from Uxbridge has studied the topic of water usage in-depth, and wrote a book called “Your Water Footprint.” Stephen Leahy’s book has since won the award for best science book in Canada.
According to Mr. Leahy, there isn’t anything in the world that doesn’t require water to make.
“Our entire way of life is built on water, it’s not built on oil, it’s water that makes all things we have around us possible,” Mr. Leahy said.
Food is where most our water usage goes to each day. It takes a shocking 610 litres of water to make a breakfast containing two eggs, a piece of toast, and a glass of orange juice.
The toast only requires 40 litres of water to make, which comes from the water used in growing the wheat and processing the bread.
The two eggs account for ten times the amount of water it took to produce the piece of toast. Each Egg requires 200 litres of water to make, accounting for the largest portion of the breakfast. This is because of all the water used in growing the crops fed to the chicken.
Out of all types of food, meat requires the most water to make because of the amount of water it takes to grow the feed fed to the animals.
“When we think about food, it takes a fair bit of water to grow any kind of crop but when you also feed a crop to an animal, that ends up multiplying the amount of water you use.” Mr. Leahy said, “For example, a medium size hamburger would take up 2600 litres of water to make, but a soy version of the same thing is 240 litres.”
He says producing beef requires exponentially more water than soy beans because of the number of crops grown and fed to the cow before procuring the beef.
The water used in growing cotton to make clothing also accounts for a large part of the average Canadians water footprint. It is estimated to take a little over 7600 litres to grow enough cotton to make a pair of regular blue jeans.
“There is an underappreciation for the value of water and its usefulness,” Mr. Leahy said.
In countries plentiful with fresh water such as Canada, the importance of water is often overlooked. Yet, in other countries facing severe drought and water insecurity, like Syria or Libya, the issue of water use is a primary issue.
“Water scarcity globally is the biggest threat to peace and security around the world,” Mr. Leahy said.
He says, international studies and bodies of evidence show drought and water insecurity are causing conflicts worldwide.
“The conflict in Syria is largely a result of water shortages,” Mr. Leahy said.
The water shortages in Syria stem from a misuse of water and dry climate. According to Mr. Leahy, education is a key part of solving the water issue.
Buying clothing products from countries not facing water scarcity or shortages is one of the ways people can reduce the impact of their water foot print.
According to Mr. Leahy, purchasing food locally is another simple and effective way to reduce water waste.
“I think we can do everything we are doing right now with a lot less water. But it starts with awareness and educating ourselves about how much is being used, and how we can do it in a better and more efficient way,” Mr. Leahy said.
Stephen Leahy’s book “The Water Footprint” can be purchased online or found at local book stores in Port Perry and Uxbridge.