Make a Difference
This section provides practical information on how people can take action to reduce their impact on the water environment at home and in the workplace.
The water footprint of an individual, business or country is defined as the total volume of fresh water that is used to produce the foods and services consumed by the individual, business or country. A water footprint is generally expressed in terms of the volume of water used per year. If action is taken to reduce individuals’ and organisations’ water footprint, the volume of water abstracted from rivers, lakes and groundwater resources is reduced. This conserves resources and reduces pressures on wildlife habitats.
Waterfootprint.org is a UNECSO run website which provides water footprint and virtual water information. It contains a calculator for individual and national water footprints, which allows comparisons to be made between different countries and lifestyles.
The virtual water content of a product is the volume of water used to produce the product, measured at the place where the product is manufactured. The virtual water content of a product can also be defined as the volume of water that would have been required to produce the product in the place where the product is consumed. For example, it takes 140 litres of water to produce a cup of instant coffee, because of the water used to grow the coffee and then process it into a useable form. The production of one kilogram of beef requires 16,000 litres of water.
The virtual water import of a country or region is the volume of water associated with the import of goods or services into the country or region. It is the total volume of water required in the export countries to produce the products for export. Viewed from the perspective of the importing country, this water can be seen as an additional source of water that comes on top of the locally available water resources.
Knowing the virtual water associated with various goods increases peoples’ awareness of the importance of water to all aspects of life and enables them to make informed choices about diet and consumption patterns. The following links provide information on how to reduce the impact on the water environment through reducing the amount of water consumed and through using cleaner technologies which release less pollution into the environment.
The Environment Agency website has practical information on how to reduce water use in the home, garden, in business and farming.
Envirowise Guide: Tracking water use to cut costs
This Good Practice Guide describes a six-step procedure for constructing a water balance and explains how this can identify water and cost saving opportunities.
Waterwise is an independent, not-for-profit UK NGO focused on reducing water consumption in the UK.
The Water Efficiency Strategy sets out ‘a blueprint to deliver a vision of a UK in which all people, homes and businesses are water-efficient, and where water is used wisely, every day, everywhere’.
The Save Water section of the website covers saving water at home, in the kitchen, in the garden, at work, and in schools.
Wildlife Trusts – Saving Water
Reducing water consumption and abstraction helps to maintain natural wetland habitats - vital for wildlife and natural processes such as minimising flood risk and water purification. The Wildlife Trusts are working with water companies to help promote water efficiency.
Ofwat – Water saving tips
Consumer Council for Water – Using water wisely
Courtauld Commitment 2025 Water Ambition
The impact on the environment of producing food and drink, both in the UK and overseas, will be reduced under a new Water Ambition launched by sustainability experts WRAP, in partnership with WWF and the Rivers Trust, as part of Courtauld Commitment 2025.
Business signatories are monitoring water use in their own operations and have improved efficiency.
The Courtauld Commitment 2025 Water Ambition is a practical response to the growing problem of water stress. With WWF, the Rivers Trust and other leading water experts we’ve created a collaborative programme that works on a localised level, dealing directly at source with issues specific within each catchment area.
RSPB – Why save water?
Using water more wisely in homes, gardens and workplaces can ease the pressure on wetlands and rivers in times of stress. Saving water will ensure more stable, resilient habitats for the birds and other wildlife which depend on our water environment for their survival.
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