How Much Water Does it Take to Make One Hamburger?

April 2, 2012

Worldwide, more than 1.5 billion people do not have access to clean drinking water. Yet in the developed world, we treat water as if it will never stop flowing. Between 20 minute showers, green grass lawns in the middle of the desert, and our seemingly unstoppable need to purchase bottled water, the average American uses 132 gallons of water per day for everything other than food creation.

The average American household uses 107,000 gallons per day. Compared to the over one billion who get by on less than 1.5 gallons a day, we have it easy. But that ease will cost us all in the long run. and that’s why it’s important for us to know just how much water we use, how much it water takes to make the products we consume each day, and what we can do to conserve it.

Worldwide agricultural needs account for 70% of water usage, and it takes about 800 gallons of water to produce enough food for one person for a single day. In comparison, our drinking water needs are just a small fraction of the amount we use to grow food. Add in all the non-edible consumables we use everyday and water usage figures skyrocket, leaving one to wonder just how we have any clean water left on earth at all. With a little research, I was able to find how much water it takes to make a random assortment of foods and goods, and I was shocked.

How much water does it take to make…

  • To make one hamburger it takes 635 gallons of water
  • One printed Sunday newspaper uses 80 gallons of water
  • One slice of bread needs 10 gallons of water
  • That morning cup of coffee requires 35 gallons of water to make
  • One egg needs 400 gallons of water
  • A pound of chicken needs 500 gallons of water to process
  • A single potato? 100 gallons of water
  • One orange requires 13 gallons of water
  • That cotton shirt you’re wearing? 700 gallons of water
  • A full set of tires for your Prius requires 2,072 gallons of water
  • The dishwasher uses between 9-12 gallons of water each time you run it
  • One barrel of crude oil needs 1,851 gallons of water to refine

how much water does it take

So how much water does it take to make everything? A lot. Do you see what I am getting at here? Every single thing we use, touch, consume, buy, eat, and throw away requires us to use billions of gallons of our most precious resource. This is why it is of the upmost importance to realize where we may be wasting water and what we can do to try to conserve it whenever possible. We all realize that water will be used to make the items we need, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t take care to protect it when we can.

What you can do to conserve water

  • Take shorter showers
  • Skip taking baths
  • Make the things you buy last longer so they don’t need replacing so often
  • Buy higher-quality goods
  • Don’t throw away anything that can be recycled
  • Drink tap water, not bottled water
  • Eliminate all drips in the house
  • Cover your swimming pool to cut down on evaporation
  • Install a water-saving showerhead and faucet restrictors
  • Let your grass grow a little higher so that it needs less watering
  • Eat less meat and try out Meatless Mondays, replacing one meat meal with vegetarian one
  • Collect rainwater for your irrigation needs

Water is vital to our survival, and it’s up to us to make sure we don’t abuse or waste it. Properly disposing of trash and chemicals, reducing our overall consumption, and working to ensure that the rest of the world has access to clean drinking water goes a long way towards keeping this important resource safe and secure for all of our needs.

Want to help provide clean water to billions around the globe without it? Check out these water-oriented charities:

Charity Water
The Water Project
Water.org
One Dollar Water

Do your part and work to conserve water whenever possible.

—-
Sources:

http://matadornetwork.com/change/40-shocking-facts-about-water/
http://globalwaterpartnership.wordpress.com/manage-water/
http://water.org
http://ga.water.usgs.gov/edu/wuir.html
http://media.mgbg.com/wkrg/photos/weather/downloads/Water_Facts.pdf
Water image from BigStock

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About the Author:

After a varied past of being a test driver for automotive television programs, a Hollywood studio lackey, and an online media sales director, David is now the publisher and editor of The Good Human. In his spare time he rides motorcycles, drinks good beer, and builds stuff in the garage. You can follow him on Twitter at @thegoodhuman or G+ at Google
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Comments (5)

  1. Dan says:

    Why not just come out and say it? Go vegan if you want to make the greatest impact to ALL areas of environmental health, not only water, but soil, air, forests, animal life and human health.

    Going meatless on Monday is a sham if you intend in eating eating meat, dairy and eggs for the remainder of the week. It’s like pretending to care 1/7th of the time!

    • David says:

      Because I don’t believe one size fits all. That’s like saying anyone who doesn’t ride their bike every day doesn’t care all the time and only a little. Everyone has to do as much as they can that matches their lifestyle. A vegan living in a mansion isn’t necessarily better than a meat eater living modestly.

  2. Fouad says:

    How were these figures obtained ?

    635 Gallons of water for ONE hamburger seems like a stretch… If the byproduct of that burger is something like 500 extra patties, 200 buns and 200 tomatoes, then the figure isn’t quite representative…

    I know we use too much water but “the most perfidious way to harm a cause is to defend it with faulty arguments” as Nietsche once said…

    Perhaps more details would be useful ?