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Water Conscious Shopping

(Information below from Last Oasis, by Sandra Postel, and California Water Facts, by the Water Education Foundation)

Water is an essential ingredient in most manufacturing operations. Especially for those 1 billion of us in the high-consumption class, cutting down on our purchases of material things--from clothes and shoes to paper and appliances--conserves and protects water supplies as effectively as installing a low-flush toilet does. As with so many natural resources, as long as prices in the marketplace fail to reflect full social and ecological costs, voluntary changes in consumption patterns will play an important role in the quest for sustainability.

We rarely think about water when we see an automobile, for example, but producing a typical U.S. car requires more than 50 times its weight in water (39,090 gallons)! Choosing a fuel-efficient model will help--it takes 44 gallons of water to refine one gallon of crude oil and 1,700 gallons of water to produce a gallon of ethanol.

  1. A 2.2 lbs of hamburger or steak produced by a typical California beef cattle operation, for instance, uses some 5,400 gallons of water.
  2. Producing 1 lb of bread requires 500 gallons of water.
  3. Producing 1 serving (8 oz.) of chicken requires 330 gallons of water.
  4. Growing one cotton T-shirt requires 256 gallons of water (source: The King of California, by Arax and Wartzman)
  5. Producing 1 egg requires over 100 gallons of water.
  6. Producing 1 serving (8 fl. oz.) of milk requires 48 gallons of water.
  7. Producing 1 serving (2 oz.) of pasta requires 36 gallons of water.
  8. Producing 1 serving (4.6 oz.) of oranges requires 14 gallons of water.
  9. Producing 1 serving (4.3 oz.) of tomatoes requires 8 gallons of water.
  10. Producing a typical American Thanksgiving dinner for six people requires over 30,000 gallons of water.