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Water Footprint

During the drought, Californians showed that they can and will conserve water around the house. They learned to reduce their tap water, fix leaks and only water their lawn twice a week. But the water that comes from the faucet is only about one-tenth of the water that people use each day. It takes water to make the clothes they wear, the things they buy, the food they eat and the energy that powers their house. A water footprint is a way to calculate the total water, both direct and indirect (virtual), that each person uses, so they can make water friendly choices beyond the tap.

What is a Water Footprint?

The water footprint is the sum of the water used directly or indirectly to produce goods and services consumed by humanity. People use water for drinking, cooking and washing but even more is used for growing our food and for making our clothing, cars, or computers. In addition to these, water impacted by pollutants (chemical or temperature) contribute to the water footprint.

The water footprint measures the amount of water used to produce each of the goods and services we use. It can be measured for a single process, such as growing rice, for a product, such as a pair of jeans, for the fuel we put in our car, or for an entire multi-national company. The water footprint can also tell us how much water is being consumed by a particular country – or globally – in a specific river basin or from an aquifer.

The Water Footprint Network's product gallery allows individuals to compare the amount of water used to produce items that we use everyday such as chocolate, pizza, coffee, and ethanol fuel.

California's Water Footprint

The California Water Plan Update 2013 (Update 2013) featured the work of the Pacific Institute, who developed California’s Water Footprint. The Pacific Institute’s California Water Footprint analyzes the total state’s water use, including the water that goes into the goods we use every day and the food we grow and export. Update 2013 used California’s water footprint as part of a look at California’s water sustainability (see our Sustainability page).

By measuring and understanding the many ways that Californians use water, whether it is through pipes or from food production, we can reduce the risks and uncertainties associated with certain ways of using water in production and improve our water sustainability. As global climate change occurs, different parts of the world will be affected differently, which will affect the reliability of receiving imported goods and services. This will in turn affect water management in California as domestic sources either make up for shortfalls in imports through increased production, or reduce their water use due to international trade pressures. Calculating and using the water footprint in water planning and assessment is an acknowledgment that we participate both in global trade and in one water cycle.

Water Footprint Calculator

There are a number of water footprint calculators that can help you estimate your water footprint. The GRACE Communications Foundation developed a water footprint calculator that individuals and households can use to calculate their water footprint. The Water Footprint Network developed a calculator that allows individuals to calculate their personal water footprint.

GRACE Water Footprint Calculator   Water Footprint Network Calculator

Click on the image to open the calculator. Note that these calculators are provided for informational purposes only. A Spanish version of the GRACE calculator is also available.

Water Use Efficiency

The Association of California Water Agencies and the California Department of Water Resources created the Save Our Water program. Save Our Water is a statewide program aimed at helping Californians reduce their everyday water use. It provides a number of tips to help save water everyday.

Additional Information

For more information on water footprint, you can visit the Water Footprint Network webpage.
For questions about content related to water footprint in the California Water Plan, you can email us at: cwpcom@water.ca.gov.