International World Water Day is held every 22 March as a means of focusing attention on the importance of freshwater and advocating for the sustainable management of freshwater resources. This year’s theme is “Water and Food Security.”

According to United Nations (UN) Water, there are 7 billion people to feed on the planet today and another 2 billion are expected to join by 2050.

Each of us drinks about half to one gallon of water per day– however most of the water we ‘drink’ is embedded in the food we eat. For example:

  • 3963 gallons water= produces 2.2 lbs. of beef
  • 396 gallons water= produces 2.2 lbs wheat

Again according to UN Water, “When a billion people in the world already live in chronic hunger and water resources are under pressure we cannot pretend the problem is ‘elsewhere’. Coping with population growth and ensuring access to nutritious food to everyone call for a series of actions we can all help with:

  • follow a healthier, sustainable diet;
  • consume less water-intensive products;
  • reduce the scandalous food wastage: 30% of the food produced worldwide is never eaten and the water used to produce it is definitively lost!
  • produce more food, of better quality, with less water.”

So, how much water are you using? To find out, try the UN Water “One Drop” plate activity.

On my plate, I put the foods I ate this morning and will eat for lunch: one bagel, cheese, two lettuces, a tomato and grapes. 134 gallons* of water were used toward those two meals alone (not counting the coffee on my desk, two glasses of water, one glass of juice, etc.).

What’s your “Water Footprint?”—the amount of water required to produce the goods and services you consume. The calculations are based on the water requirements per unit of product as in your country of residence.

My water footprint: 76,738 ft³ per year.** As a point of reference, an Olympic size swimming pool is 88,000 ft³.

The average American’s water footprint is 100,364 ft³. This takes into account the total amount of fresh water that is used to produce the goods and services consumed by the inhabitants of the nation. It includes two components: the part of the footprint that falls inside the country (internal water footprint) and the part of the footprint that presses on other countries in the world (external water footprint). Wow.

UN Water reminds us that, “At all steps of the supply chain, from producers to consumers, actions can be taken to save water and ensure food for all.”

Get started now:

-Learn about your water usage. Take the assessments above. Use more efficient shower heads, turn off the water while brushing your teeth, fix leaky faucets.

-Join the youth of the ELCA in raising $250,000 for water wells and related water projects through the “100 Wells Challenge!”

-Download and use the ELCA World HungerWater Toolkit” to explore the intersections between access to clean water and hunger.

Every “drop” makes a difference! Follow along on Twitter @UN_Water, #WorldWaterDay.

*Liters to Gallons Converter

**Cubic meters to cubic feet converter

(Bonus points: Can you guess why my water footprint is relatively lower than the average American’s?)