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The water you use is more than what you see flowing from the tap—much more. So how much water goes into items you consume on a daily basis, and where does it come from? Can changing what you eat save water? What about the clothes you wear? Find out below.

Share your findings using the hashtag #MoleculePBS.

A picture of the earth from space

We think of Earth as the “blue” planet. More than 70 percent of it is covered by water. But 97 percent of this water is in the oceans and 2 percent is locked in glaciers and ice caps, leaving just 1 percent of all the water on the planet for people and nature to share.

Freshwater is renewable. Its supply is replenished naturally through the water cycle. But Earth’s growing human population is using water so fast that nature can’t keep up with the demand. In fact, in many parts of the world, water is already in dangerously short supply. As withdrawals continue, it will further strain this resource and threaten the people and ecosystems that depend on it.


In the early 2000s, a Dutch professor named Arjen Hoekstra opened people’s eyes to how we manage this vital resource. In fact, his water footprint concept created a whole new scientific discipline—one that promises to shape solutions for the challenges we face.

Direct water use is what you can see being used—the water flowing from the tap when you brush your teeth or shower, or from a garden hose when you water the lawn. A water footprint shines a light on what you don’t see: water use that occurs in each step of the production process of the goods you buy. It accounts for surface water and groundwater (referred to as “blue water”) as well as rainwater (“green water”). It also captures water used to make wastewater generated in manufacturing safe for reuse (“grey water”).

A water footprint can reveal water-use patterns that can help individuals, businesses, and countries understand how they can use less. After all, our decisions affect water resources not just in the home or the country we live in, but wherever products we consume are grown or made.

An inforgraphic showing how much water it takes to produce 1 tomato, 1 sheet of paper, 1 8oz steak and a pair of jeans.

What is the water footprint of each item, where does the water come from, and how can you help reduce it?

By understanding our individual water footprint, we can appreciate the role water plays in everyone’s lives.

So what’s yours?

Water calculator provided by | Grace Communications Foundation.

Share your footprint on social media, and don’t forget to tag


Note: The calculations used in the Water Footprint Calculator provide an estimate. The value of the Water Footprint Calculator lies in its ability to help users understand how they use water and how they can use less.


Virtual Water

See how our demand for cheap cotton contributed to the draining of the Aral Sea.

Cracks in the Earth

See how our demands on groundwater are creating huge cracks, across earth’s surface.