How much is that in litres?

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WORDS Belinda Bean

Water is essential to all of life’s support systems. We need water to drink, wash, cook, grow food and water plants, as well as provide relaxation and recreational space. Water is a renewable resource, but its continued supply to all areas to meet our needs is often in doubt. Australia is a dry continent where water is an unpredictable and precious resource. With the continuing changes to weather patterns, coupled with growing populations and water use, we need to take active steps to conserve it in order to help meet our current and future needs, as well as preserve the environment.

Arts and law student Zara Plummer has a big vision for the future of water in Australia. She sees a society that is proactive and aware about the amount and type of resources used to produce the items we consume. Zara became water conscious when she found out how much water went into the production of some products. “I was surprised to discover that 2400 litres of water is used to produce one hamburger, 200 litres for a glass of milk, and 40 litres for a slice of bread!”

As such, her water conservation efforts may not seem like your typical ‘take shorter showers’ spiel. “I try to be conscious about my water consumption when I’m both at home and on the go. I carry a reusable metal water bottle with me, and when possible I bring my own lunch to uni so I can save on plastic. The thing that got me doing this was reading that over 15 litres of water was needed in the production of 1 litre water in a disposable plastic bottle, so I figured that bringing my own containers would allow me to save water without drastically changing my lifestyle,” says Zara.

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Tips from Zara to save water without turning a tap!

  • Use canvas instead of plastic bags;
  • Recycle products at home such as glass, plastics with numbers, paper and cardboard based products;
  • Try op-shopping – not only can you grab a bargain, but you also reduce the demand for cotton which is water intensive (2400 litres for a single cotton T-shirt!);
  • Have a vegetarian day (such as Meat Free Monday) to reduce meat consumption (which also requires a lot of water in production). If you simply can’t do without meat, try to opt for grass-fed rather than grain-fed cattle that uses less water than growing corn;
  • Buy local produce and reduce the amount of water used during transportation;
  • Install water-saving faucets on taps and showers. It cuts down water consumption without you having to make significant lifestyle alterations;
  • For those who drive, see if you can let the rain wash your car, or try cleaning it on the lawn so that waste water can be used on the garden.

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Zara discovered that the university has a car pooling database, which reduces petrol consumption and therefore water used in production; alternatively, she recommends taking public transport or riding a bike into the university.