Using Water Wisely

File:Zhinvali reservoir.jpgHow much water does it take to make a cup of coffee? There’s probably around 200 millilitres in a standard mug. However, water is also used to grow and process the coffee beans, and to generate the energy required to process and transport the finished product. When this volume of water is included, it takes 140 litres to make a single cup of coffee. For scale, a bath holds about 150 litres of water.

This can be applied to all sorts of products. For example, a t-shirt requires 2,700 litres of water to produce; a kilogram of beef uses 15,500 litres. In fact, the amount of water used to grow and make things is so great, two-thirds of the water usage we are responsible for occurs outside of the UK.

Developing countries are using significant amounts of their own water resources to produce food and other products for countries like the UK. In many developing countries, these activities bring in much needed foreign investment. However, with the pressure of changing climates and growing populations, this raises questions around whether it is right to import goods from countries facing water shortages.

> New technologies, such as improved water supply networks, could alleviate some of the problems. You can read more on this topic in a report released by the Engineering the Future alliance, which is where the figures in this article were drawn from:

> Essex & Suffolk Water also offer advice on their website to help individuals use water efficiently:


  1. says

    Hi Ihsien

    Thank you for a really informative article. You are so right: we can try and cut down the amount of water we use ourselves but very few of us are actually aware of the amount of water used in manufacturing processes. And we really should consider the consequences of the products we buy.

    We don’t suffer from major shortages in this country at the moment, but increasingly we are being warned that this could happen in the not too distant future. Although we are an island surrounded by water, the infastructure just isn’t in place to desalinate sea water. so we do need to be much more water conscious in this country, both as individuals and, of course, in manufacturing. You might be interested in a couple of article about water usage in industry from our sister company, the Organisation for Responsible Businesses:

    Let the Savings Flood In:

    Water: Why and How to Reduce Usage:

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