A Review of Existing Water Footprint Calculators

I have several different parts of this project running simultaneously; while I’m compiling all of the information from the dance competition, I want to introduce a second major component of this environmental footprint analysis: water consumption. I aim to analyze the water I consume directly in my home and activities, as well as water consumed indirectly to produce goods and services to quantify my total water footprint for 2017.

Similar to my approach to my carbon footprint, I’m starting by researching the tools already available, namely online water footprint calculators. Generally, these water footprint calculators incorporate water used directly in the home, as well as secondary water uses for food production, transportation and energy, purchased goods, etc. Compared to carbon footprint calculators, these are much easier to use as a college student because they focus on consumption activities (e.g. how many times per day do you flush a toilet? How much beef do you eat per week?) rather than consumption via utility bills. I used three water calculators to calculate my footprint while living in the Rice University dorms, and the results (average gallons of water per day used) are given below:

I also estimated my own water footprint based on a literature review and measurements around my dorm room, deriving a total of 73.8 gal/day. You can find all of my calculations summarized in this document.

Much like the carbon footprint calculators, these results are extremely varied. The first two calculators (GRACE Foundation and National Geographic) considered the widest range of factors and asked for the most specific inputs, and from my perspective, their relatively close results boosts their credibility. In contrast, the Water Footprint Network used my gross yearly income to estimate a large portion of my footprint (which seems largely inaccurate due to an inevitably large number of assumptions), and my own calculations neglected several material production calculations, like the water consumed to produce my clothing. Thus, my intuition suggests that the correct number is in the 1,200 gal/day range, and we’ll see how this number progresses with my calculations over the course of the year.

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