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What is water footprint?

Your water footprint is the amount of water you use at home, school, or work. It includes the water used when you drink a glass of water, do the dishes, or take a shower. It also includes the water it took to produce the food you eat, the products you buy, and the energy you use. You may not drink, feel, or see this virtual water, but it makes up the largest part of your water footprint.

Water footprints can be calculated for individuals, households, businesses, and countries.


The food we eat makes up

of our total water footprint

This is mostly because of the "virtual water" needed to produce our food. 


We make food choices every day, knowing more about the water footprint of our foods can help us to make informed choices.

The Food for Thought app allows you to compare the water footprint of 22 common foods.  The numbers shown on the water graph in the app represent the total amount of water used in the production of each food from the field to the store.  The water figures in the app are measured in gallons and shown by USDA suggested serving size, based on water footprint assessments conducted by the Water Footprint Network.

Why Do Water Footprints Matter?

Everybody needs water, and as the world's population grows, so does our need for water.

Globally, water use is increasing, in part because as our population grows more people are drinking and bathing, but also because as developing countries like China and India grow more prosperous, more people are also consuming more water-intensive food, electricity and consumer goods. This puts pressure on water resources, especially in the arid parts of the US and the rest of the world where food is grown and water resources are limited.

A water footprint reveals water patterns, from the individual all the way to the national level. The water footprint gives everyone – from citizens to business managers to policy makers – a better understanding of the water we use and where it comes from. This information can help us to be more efficient and sustainable with our water use and to appreciate the role of water in our lives.


The idea of the water footprint was created by Dr. Arjen Hoekstra who worked with others to develop the methodology behind calculating a water footprint, and created the Water Footprint Network (WFN), an international organization that leads research in this discipline. Data from the WFN was used in the Food For Thought App, and in the water footprint calculator above.

Virtual Water: Water footprint app

You can investigate the water footprint of foods using an interactive app, Virtual water.  Based on an infographic that can also be purchased as a poster, the app allows the user to scroll through different foods and examine their water footprint and additional information. This easy to use app allows the users to turn the metric system off with the touch of a button, so data can be easily understood. 

Learn More! 

 Investigate the water footprint of additional foods here!

Learn more about the water footprint of food using the product gallery created by the Water Footprint Network. Direct links to the research reports are included.

Calculate your personal water footprint!

The Water Footprint Calculator by Grace Communications provides a snapshot of how daily activities and routines impact water use. Your calculated water footprint, is an estimate of your overall personal water use, that can help you better understand your habits and behaviors and their contribution to your overall water footprint. There are many additional resources about water and food at this site.

Content References

Heller, M. C., & Keoleian, G. A. (2015). Greenhouse gas emission estimates of US dietary choices and food loss. Journal of Industrial Ecology, 19(3), 391-401.


Jones, C., & Kammen, D. M. (2011) Quantifying Carbon Footprint Reduction Opportunities for U.S. Households and Communities. Supporting Materials. Environ. Sci. Technol., 45 (9), pp 4088–4095.

Website References

Water Footprint Calculator  –  GRACE Communications Foundation

Water Footprint Network  

Water Footprint Product Gallery  –  Water Footprint Network

The Water Footprint of Products  –  The Virtual Water

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