From virtual water to smart consumption

Water is everything.

Maybe the great mind of Thales, a greek philosopher, once referred to as “the father of science” wasn’t too far off when he stated “water constitutes the principle of things”

This friday, 22nd of March, will be World Water day and what makes it more special, 2013 was declared in February by the United Nations (UN) as the The International year of water cooperation (as oppose to competition).

I will take this chance then to talk about a project which is very relevant to my blog theme, the virtual water project. This initiative concerns the water foot print that products have. Designer Timm Kekeritz illustrated parts of their investigations in vivid infographs that made the idea come to life:

“It is just making it easier to communicate the whole issue. Not everybody takes the time to read a paper, but looking at a poster is something everybody can do.” said Timm Kekeritz to Metropolis magazine when he was asked about the role of design in promoting environmental issues during an interview.

I think it’s a great way to communicate environmental topics, because most of that stuff is kind of abstract thinking. It always has to have something relatively tangible, or something that is easy to understand at hand, to explain the issue.”

The virtual water project took the idea of virtual water from London Professor John Anthony Allan. Virtual water is a term that refers to amount of water that is used indirectly in order to produce a specific product.

“The water is said to be virtual because once the wheat is grown, the real water used to grow it is no longer actually contained in the wheat.”

“The concept of virtual water helps us realize how much water is needed to produce different goods and services. In semi-arid and arid areas, knowing the virtual water value of a good or service can be useful towards determining how best to use the scarce water available.”

This concept is a real eye open in that  it makes you realise that the real-water content is minuscule when compared to the virtual-water content. The reason why the adjective “virtual”

The adjective virtual denotes that water is not contained in the product (as opposed to the real water content) however that water is still needed to make it.

Poster-A3-WaterFootprint-of-Products vir

The UNs objective of achieving cooperation instead of competition regarding water quite nobel if we considered that 85% of world population lives in the direst half of the planet, according to FAO (England clearly not being one of them)

Water scarcity is a constant risk for 40% of the world population. The UN estimates that dirty water causes up to 80% of diseases in developing and underdeveloped countries, the equivalent to 10 million deaths each year.

During the 1997 Earth Summit water security was described as “the sleeping tiger of the worlds environmental problems”. Water issues shouldn´t be underestimated, they can pose a serious problem in world food supplies, limit economic and social development and even resulting in conflict between neighbouring drainage basins countries.

It’s not all bad news though, since  1947 there have been 300 international water agreements were reached versus 37 conflicts between states over water according to the UN. These are the kind of good news that we need to hear more, and for that it is important to acknowledge the importance that days like the World water day have in rising awareness.

Below you can see a visualisation of whater consumption patters in two developed (UK and USA) countries and two underdeveloped countries (Somalia and Sudan)

UN water information of UK

uk

UN water information of Sudan (prior 2011)

sudan  at 23.17.54

UN water information of USA

USA

UN water information of Somalia

Somalia

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3 comments

  1. Corinna Schmitt · · Reply

    Hey 🙂 I really liked your article and though I knew about water issues it really made me aware of the fact that there is so much water needed to produce all kinds of products and that we should try to stop wasting water because it’s such an big issue having access to pure water in other parts of the world.
    Xo coco

  2. S Sabbion · · Reply

    This subject has been addressed in many forms of media – through charities, energy companies and so forth, but I believe that in this approach to raising awareness, you enable the shock factor rather than pulling out the pity card. Showing the statistics and how we can dramatically lower them by making small changes is what people need to see.
    No one want to read a list of statistics but seing it presented in a “child-like” manner is appealing to everyone and beneficial.

    It is also proven that when you associate a word or number with an image it is more prone to stick; so in actual fact, this form of communication is exactly what people need.

    Rounded and to the point. Why not learn more in less time.

  3. […] Visual Water […]

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