I was first introduced to the concept of water footprint poolside at a hotel in Newport Beach. I reclined on my lounge chair with a book about water and a cold beer to refresh me on a hot Summer day. My beer, I learned had a water footprint of sixty-five gallons. The algorithm used to calculate the water footprint of the average beer adds up all the water used in the production of all the major ingredients, in this case barley and hops. The algorithm goes something like this: water from irrigation PLUS the water from precipitation PLUS water trapped in soil as moisture PLUS ground water utilized by the plant from planting to harvest. The totals are adjusted for water runoff and evaporation. Water footprints can be calculated on all food.
I totaled the water footprint of my breakfast I ate that morning at the hotel. The three egg omelet required sixty gallons of water for the eggs, about one-half gallon for the slices of tomato, thirteen gallons for the half ounce of cheese, and an additional twenty-two gallons for two slices of toast. I washed my breakfast down with a cup of tea with a virtual water footprint of five and a half gallons. Small in comparison to my husband’s coffee. The approximate water footprint of my breakfast was one hundred and one gallons of fresh water. My food measured in gallons.
The omelet and tea I made myself this morning, pictured above, also has a water footprint of 101 gallons. The difference is these are green eggs and tea. Remember the colors of water? The eggs are from my backyard chickens. I know exactly what they eat, some grass from the yard (irrigated with scant amount of water), some organic feed, some compost like veggies, fruit rinds, pasta, rice…..Their manure is scattered around the yard to fertilize my fruit trees and vegetable beds. The tomato was homegrown with a mixture of blue water from the garden hose and water I capture with water collection buckets from the sinks in the house. They are minimally watered tomatoes. The cheese is from pasture-raised cows who eat a diet of rain fed grass. The toast (I forgot to include in the picture) is from my own recipe using organic wheat and local honey (see bread and water). This breakfast is a mixed green and blue water, as most of my meals are. But I try to purchase or raise as many ingredients possible with higher green water footprints. If we all “green” are food just a little more imagine the difference it could make.
For more information on water footprint visit www.waterfootprint.org.