Cooking rice could be the easiest yet one of the trickiest things to do. After all, how much water does it really take to make a bowl of perfect rice?
There seems to be no definite answer to this - ask a cook and he may say three cups; ask an environment expert and you will be stunned. A bowl of rice can cost nature anywhere up to 1400 litres of water. This includes the total water used while growing the crop, during its transportation from the farm to your plate, plus the two cups you finally add to the recipe.
Looking at these figures, it becomes clear that there lies a huge difference between the amount of water we believe we consume and the amount that we really do consume. The water we think we consume is mostly our direct water footprint. This includes the water we use to clean our house, to wash our clothes, or the water we use as food. Indirect water footprint, on the other hand, is much more complex – in most instances you would be left wondering what on earth could you ever do to reduce it!
Whereas it’s simple to manage your direct water consumption – you need only turn off your tap while brushing your teeth, switch from a shower to a bucket, or from a hose to a bucket for washing your car, it can be very tricky to recognize or eliminate contributors of your indirect water footprint. After all, it will be too ambitious a goal to give up on rice – especially in a country that is the second largest consumer of rice in the world!
Even as organizations such as WWF-India work on growing more rice (and other thirsty crops) with less water, to reduce agricultural water footprint, here are a few things that you can do to reduce your water footprint significantly:
See how much water you consume everyday!
Overuse of groundwater and our large direct/indirect water footprints lead to exploitation of water resources. When we draw out water at a rate higher than it can be naturally replenished, we overburden the rivers, lakes and ponds that are the sources of our water.
When you choose to know how much you use, you put yourself in a position to save so much more.
Avoid buying products that come with a package!
Large quantities of paper and a great amount of plastic generally go into heavy packaging! When making even one sheet of A4 paper can cost nature 10 litres of water – imagine the cost of an object that comes neatly wrapped in a bubble-wrap, put in a big cardboard box and finally handed over to you in a plastic/paper bag!
Print only when needed!
Every time you use a sheet of paper, you consume (indirectly, of course) more than 10 litres of water!
Next time you decide to print (or maybe even get a receipt from the ATM) – think whether you really need a hard copy or can do without it.
Manage your direct water footprint.
This is, by far, the easiest way to save water! Here are some things that you can do to save loads of water every day:
- Fix all water pipes to prevent leakage.
- Don’t let water overflow from tanks.
- Close the tap while brushing your teeth.
- Install low-flow water faucets, dual flow water systems or water-less toilets.
- Choose water-efficient appliances such as front loading washing machines.
- Do not wash vegetables under a running tap but soak them in a bucket.
- Reuse water from baths, sinks, washing machines, and other kitchen appliances to mop floors or for flushing toilets.
It’s a great way to meet your every day water needs.
However, it’s not only you who benefits by this. When you have a harvest system with recharge structures, excess rain water can be allowed to seep into the ground – recharging groundwater and replenishing the local eco-system.
Buy local produce.
Locally produced foods are fresher than those expensive, imported fruits and vegetables.
When food doesn’t travel long distances to reach your plate, loads of water that’d be otherwise used in packing, preserving and transporting is saved.
Your pocket, your health and the planet will all thank you if you go local!
Buy seasonal produce.
Remember, food that is out of season could have travelled long distances from places where it is in season. The packaging, the transport and the storage all cost huge amounts of water.
When you buy seasonal fruits and vegetables, you also end up consuming fewer preservatives, doing your health a huge favor. Seasonal food is also richer in nutrients!
Avoid buying processed food!
We all know what processed food can do to our health. But, it can also harm our water resources. Moreover, to dispose the plastic that is used in packaging these foods, a large amount of water is wasted.
Have your own Kitchen Garden!
If you have the space and the time, grow fruits and vegetables in your own backyard. When you do this, you save loads of water that would have been otherwise consumed in packaging, transport and storage.
Your own kitchen garden also allows you to go completely organic - giving you greater control over what you eat!
Go shopping with a big cloth bag!
It is difficult to carry ten polythene bags anyway! Dump everything into your cloth bag and reduce your water footprint by producing less waste.
A huge amount of water is used to dispose the tonnes of waste generated – in form of plastic bags - every day. Going plastic-free can help save loads of water.
Be a conscious consumer and ask questions!
It may not always be possible to do away with water-intensive products such as coffee, wine or cotton. However, you can “choose products that have a relatively low water footprint or that have footprints in an area that doesn’t have high water scarcity. You can ask for product transparency from businesses and for regulation from governments. When information is available on the impacts of a certain article on the water system, consumers can make conscious choices about what they buy.”