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How much water it takes to create 30 common items

  • How much water it takes to create 30 common items

    The world is in a water crisis. From dirty water in Flint, Michigan, to droughts in Arizona, California, and South Africa, the human population seems to be spiraling toward a world with less water. Even though water is a renewable resource, there is still a finite amount in our lakes, rivers, and oceans.

    A person uses between 80 and 100 gallons of water a day by flushing toilets, taking showers, running faucets, washing clothes, starting the dishwasher, and watering outdoor lawns. However, that number doesn’t take into account the amount of water used to make common items people use daily.

    Everyday items like computers, smartphones, T-shirts, jeans, shoes, coffee, eggs, and dog food carry a water footprint. The water footprint of a product is the amount of water that is consumed and polluted in all processing stages of its production. Call it greywater, virtual water, or something else—the things people use every day are produced with hundreds of gallons of "hidden" water. Consider these examples. A pound of almonds takes nearly 2,000 gallons of water to grow. It takes more than 3,400 gallons of water to produce a smartphone, 6,000 gallons of water to run a 60-watt lightbulb for half a day, and 200 gallons of water to make one bowl of dog food.

    To find out how much pressure everyday products are putting on the world’s finite fresh water supply, Stacker’s researchers analyzed the water footprint of 30 common household items. Click through the list to see how much water is needed to make each of these items and discover more eco-friendly alternatives.

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  • Cotton T-shirt

    The simple everyday cotton T-shirt has a much larger water impact than one might expect. It takes 713 gallons of water to grow the cotton needed to produce one cotton T-shirt. A polyester T-shirt is a lower-water option, but it uses more oil to produce.

  • Set of car tires

    It takes around 2,074 gallons of water to produce a set of car tires. The vast majority of tires are made from synthetic rubber, which needs water to be produced. During tire production, water is also used to create hot steam that molds the tire itself. To save water, people can use bikes with smaller tires as their primary transportation.

  • A cup of coffee

    It takes significantly more than a cup of water to make a cup of coffee. It takes about 37 gallons of water to grow and process the number of beans needed for a single cup. Unfortunately, the only way to be more eco-friendly about coffee is to drink less coffee.

  • A ton of steel

    In the 1960s, it took 34,000 gallons of water to make a ton of steel, and that number has gone up. Current estimates are almost double that number, at 62,000 gallons for a ton of steel. Water is used in the production process to cool the metal, scrub the steel, and descale the materials.

  • Blue jeans

    About 2,000 gallons of water go into creating a single pair of jeans, thanks to the cotton growth and apparel manufacturing processes. However, water usage in blue jeans production can be cut by more than half. Levi Strauss & Co. focuses on water sustainability and has managed to get water consumption down to 998 gallons per pair, and that includes the water used to care for them at home.

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  • Smartphone

    Phones and water don't mix, but smartphones are essentially born from water—the manufacturing process uses more than 3,400 gallons of water. These water requirements have a lot to do with the components of a smartphone; each chip included needs to be rinsed more than 30 times.

  • A pint of beer

    The four main ingredients in beer are hops, yeast, barley, and water. It takes about 20 gallons of water to make a single pint, a number that combines the water used in the brew and through the growth cycle of the plants. Brewers have caught on and are starting to use more water-friendly production methods.

  • Car

    On top of all the water needed to create tires for cars, manufacturing a car itself can use more than 39,000 gallons of water. Water is needed during most of the manufacturing process, including surface treatment coating, washing, rinsing, hosing, and cooling.

  • 60-watt lightbulb

    A 60-watt incandescent lightbulb, when left on for 12 hours a day in a year, uses up to 6,000 gallons of water. The water is used for either cooling generators or producing steam. Energy-efficient lightbulbs are more eco-friendly alternatives, as they require less water consumption.

  • Pound of beef

    It takes 1,799 gallons of water to produce a 16-ounce steak because that's how much water a cow consumes before it arrives on someone's dinner plate. Going vegetarian is more eco-friendly because vegetable production uses significantly less water.

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