Blog Action Day 2010: How to Save Water One Work Day at a Time

When you get ready for work, are you aware of how much water you use? Do you leave the tap running while you brush your teeth? How long does it take you to shower?

It’s easy to take water for granted. We turn on a faucet and so much water gushes out that we think, “There must be more where that came from, right?”

Wrong. Today is Blog Action Day, and like last year, the thousands participating hope to bring more focus to an issue that involves health, human rights, and the environment: water.

The scarcity of clean water is a global crisis that won’t go away overnight. But by being aware of the issue, taking action when you can, and influencing others to do the same, we can all contribute to the solution. But you don’t have to go to Ethiopia to learn how to save water. You can help from the comfort of your own home or office.


It’s hard to be motivated by something that does not affect you directly. But when you see how the issue causes other people to suffer — and how you may be contributing to their plight — it’s hard not to be involved. Here are some ways you can be more aware of the water crisis:

  1. Instead of browsing random websites or reading your friends’ status updates, spend some time to learn about the facts [source]:
    1. Unsafe drinking water and lack of sanitation kills more people every year than all forms of violence, including war.
    2. More people have access to a cell phone than to a toilet.
    3. Every day, women and children in Africa walk a combined total of 109 million hours to get water.
    4. It takes 6.3 gallons of water to produce just one hamburger.
    5. The average American uses 159 gallons of water every day – more than 15 times the average person in the developing world.
  2. Instead of checking Google Analytics or Feedburner, start monitoring a more important statistic: your individual water footprint. The amount of water you consume involves more than what you drink or brush your teeth with. Everything you consume — from the food you eat to the gadgets you use — requires water to produce, however indirectly. Here’s an online water footprint calculator you can use to learn your status and measure your progress.
  3. Instead of comparing the specs of the newest gadgets or game consoles, compare the water footprint of the things you usually consume — the clothes you wear, the food you eat, the gadgets you use. Here are the water footprints (gallons of water consumed per pound of food) of some common food items [source]:

Lettuce — 15 gallons;
Cabbage — 24 gallons;
Oranges — 55 gallons;
Apples — 83 gallons;
Corn — 107 gallons;
Rice — 403 gallons;
Olives — 522 gallons;
Chocolate — 2847 gallons;
Chicken — 815 gallons;
Pork — 1630 gallons;
Beef — 2500-5000 gallons;

And here’s an awesome graphic that you can use as a quick reference.

Take action when you can

It’s hard, if not impossible, to do a complete overhaul of your lifestyle based on the things you just learned. Fortunately, you don’t have to. There are many ways you can begin reducing your water footprint. The key is to be aware of different opportunities, take action, and if you can, make a habit out of them.

  1. Turn off the water while shaving or brushing your teeth.
  2. Shave, wash your face, and brush your teeth while in the shower.
  3. Shorten your shower time. Use a timer to remind you when to stop.
  4. Use a single container for your drinking water or beverage each day to cut down on washing.
  5. Throw your trash in the waste bin instead of flushing it down the toilet.
  6. Instead of a hamburger or sandwich, have a salad. It’s healthier and has a significantly lower water footprint.

There are hundred of ways to save water at home and at work. And because water is a hidden cost in producing many of the things we consume, the tips we gave last year to reduce your carbon footprint still applies.

Influence others to do the same

Did you know that a single Google search uses up about half a milliliter of water? It’s not much, but with 300 million searches per day, it adds up — 150,000 liters, to be exact. That’s a lot of waste from what was at first just a little water. But the good news is, it works both ways. Deciding to turn the the tap off while brushing your teeth may not do much. But what if you keep this habit up for the rest of your life? And what if thousands of people all did the same thing?

You can start at your work place. Talk to human resources about getting a water conservation workshop or seminar. Brainstorm ways you can all contribute to reducing the water footprint of your office. Put up signs at the pantry or in the comfort rooms to remind people of the value of saving water.

If you can’t get people to act, start by spreading the message. Start conversations about how the scarcity of clean water causes so much suffering around the world. Write articles of your own, comment on blogs and forums, tweet, blog, share links — no action is too small. We got into this predicament together, and this is how we’re going to get out.


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Red Tani writes, designs, and consults for Redvisory, a communications consultancy he started in 2009. A former systems analyst, video game hacker, and Counter Strike sniping champion, he does all his computing a la Dvorak.


  1. Debora on the 15th October

    It has always been a mystery how me saving water in a European country is supposed to help someone in Africa who lacks access to clean water. My not letting the water tap run, will not help create wells in Africa. 100 Liters not used in the USA will not create 100 Liters in Africa.

    • Red Tani on the 15th October

      The actions we take affect the global environment. Climate change, global warming, even the economy — it’s all connected. There was a time when it did not matter so much whether everybody drove an SUV, but those times are long gone. And things are only getting worse.

      The connections might not be obvious, but it’s there. What the rich nations have been doing to the environment affect the entire planet, and it’s unfortunate that poor nations like Africa take most of the damage. If things go on like this, there will come a time when even the rich nations are affected as badly.

      It’s also important to note that clean water takes effort and energy to produce — whether it’s transportation or desalination or whatnot. So not only does wasting water reduce the overall reserves of the planet, it also affects the overall carbon footprint because of the energy used to produce it.

      So to address your comment, your local actions have cumulative effects on the global environment. Whether you contribute to the movement that destroys or protects our planet is up to you.

  2. Debora on the 15th October

    @Red Tani
    I agree that our western water use has an effect on the enviroment. But that goes for most everything we do: the food we consume and throw away, the houses we build, the cars we drive, all the syuff we buy, etc etc.
    So yes, there are arguments to use less water. But the connection to water availability in other countries is so indirect that it makes no sense to connect the two.

    • Red Tani on the 15th October

      Hi Debora,

      Yes, I agree — this goes for most everything we do. Which is a further argument, that we must be mindful of those things, too.

      And I agree — the water you save by turning the tap off while you brush your teeth will not fill the glass (if he even has one) of a boy in Africa. Even if you make this a habit it would still not have a big impact.

      Which is why Blog Action Day is trying to reach out to as many as possible. If you influence many and create a culture of conservation, the impact will be significant. Of course, if you want to help Africans directly, you may donate to or other projects that actually “fill their glasses.”

  3. Joel Falconer on the 15th October

    Don’t forget that people in Africa are not the only people who need to save water. It’s a resource like any other, and people in all countries need to be mindful of how they use it–for their own country’s sake if not for any other.

    • Red Tani on the 15th October

      Thanks, Joel. I think we need to start thinking of our environment and its resources as global rather than local. In the end we’ll all share in the consequences, so we better start sharing the responsibility.

  4. James on the 18th October

    “2. Shave, wash your face, and brush your teeth while in the shower.”

    You have got to be kidding me! Point 2 actually contradicts point number 1 (Turn off the water while shaving or brushing your teeth).

    Doing this in the shower is the easiest way to WASTE water. While you are standing around shaving and brushing your teeth the water is still running. You should remove that one from the list.

  5. Erika on the 25th October

    I just decided to take a shower once or less a week, and sponge bath the rest of the time, also dry brushing. By using a hot pot of water and no more, I’m really cutting back on my water consumption….and it is sooooo easy.

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