Two-thirds of the planet is covered with water, so what’s the problem?

Two-thirds of the planet is covered with water, so what’s the problem?

Here’s a preview on our upcoming Green Living Pulse study and some solid market insights from our Director of Insight, Karen Barnes.

In our latest study, Green Living Pulse (to be release 8/21), we asked consumers about their understanding of fresh water supplies and water conservation.

Before we reveal the findings, let’s put a little context around the situation. According to the University of Michigan, less than 1% of the world’s water is accessible for direct human use. This is the water found in lakes, rivers, reservoirs and underground sources that are shallow enough to be tapped at an affordable cost. Only this amount is regularly renewed by rain and snowfall, and so is available on a sustainable basis.

And here’s a little geo-political context for good measure: According to the United Nations, two-thirds of the world’s population is projected to face water scarcity by 2025. By 2050, three BILLION more people will live here, all requiring water to survive and thrive. In the more immediate term, US water managers in 36 states anticipate shortages by 2013.

Ah, so the problem’s starting to come into focus now, right?

But it’s still a fuzzy picture for consumers. So far, concern is outpacing behavior change.

  • About 70% said they’re concerned about freshwater supply, but here’s the rub– when we asked respondents what water conservation activities they participate in, only about a third had taken any measures.
  • 35% said they had replaced showerheads/toilets with low flow alternatives. 12% said they’ve installed natural/low-water landscaping, and 11% said they capture rainwater for use.

The real change is coming in the corporate world. Companies are starting to track their water footprint – some are even planning to go water-neutral. Other organizations are tracking embedded water – or the amount of water required to produce a product. For instance:

  • One cup of coffee takes about 37 gallons of water to produce.
  • 2.2 pounds of wheat requires 343 gallons of water.
  • One hamburger requires 634 gallons.
  • 2.2 pounds of eggs need 872 gallons of water.
  • One cotton shirt (size medium) requires 1083 gallons of water.
  • One pair of jeans soaks up 2866 gallons.

So, here are the three ideas/predictions:

  • Water conservation education and products have tremendous growth potential
  • Corporate transparency about water impact will be required as the issue becomes a part of a company’s sustainability commitment
  • Look for some to start calling for a move past separate carbon water footprints and go straight to eco-footprints that measure a product’s complete impact.

Now that you know, the question is:  is your water glass half full or half empty?

About the Author

Karen Barnes

Karen is a former contributor to Shelton Insights.

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