vir·tu·al wa·ter

Virtualwatervir·tu·al wa·ter (noun): Also known as embedded water, the water that is used in the production of a good or service.

The Guardian recently published an article on the amount of embedded water that is essentially lost in all of the food that goes to waste in the UK.

British geographer John Anthony Allan, PhD, is credited for creating the concept of virtual water. In his book Virtual Water: Tackling the Threat to Our Planet's Most Precious Resource, Allan explained the concept of virtual waterwith the example of the amount of water "hidden" in an average breakfast:

Take a normal -- if slightly indulgent -- breakfast in the US or UK. There is a cup of tea of coffee, a slice or two of toast, perhaps bacon and eggs, maybe a glass of milk, and possibly a little fruit as a nod to health and a leaner waistline. Now, what is that in water terms? Let's start with coffee. Well, you might say, I like my coffee strong. There's barely any water in there at all. Maybe...But what if I told you that in your tiny espresso there is 140 litres of water. Yes -- 140 litres. You might think I was slightly deranged. But that is the virtual water hidden in the coffee. That is the amount of water used in growing, producing, packaging and shipping the beans that make the coffee. Here is a simple example of what we mean by something's cost in virtual water. It is, I am sure you will agree, rather a lot more water than you first thought. But it is just the tip of your breakfast's virtual-water iceberg.



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I learned about virtual water in an Environmental Studies class I took and it was definitely enlightening. Not many people think of all the water included in making something like a hamburger for example. Not only do you have to consider producing the vegetables and wheat you also have to consider the water fed to the cow, and the water used to produce the food for the cow to eat. It's incredible just how much water is used to produce one product. And virtual water doesn't just pertain to food, it can pertain to other things as well. Cotton T-shirts for example have a virtual water impact. When considering all of this water used, it's a wonder we aren't running out of water sources faster!


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Surprising, I had no idea how much water is in all my food. I hope they find out how to better conserve this water. That would help out so many people. I will not take for granted the water in my food ever again. Maybe there could be some way that people can recycle their food so that the water can be recycled out. I am not sure if that could work out correctly. I do know that some sewage places have found out a system in which they can take out the fecal matter and turn it into fertilizer for farmers. While at the same time filtering out the water to be treated so it can be used for public usage. Which is a great thing, we should all try to find ways to conserve and find ways to reuse the material we already have. The environment is important and should be protected.


Water is a natural source taken for granted in the U.S. Notice I said natural source instead of natural REsource. Because of the over abuse of using water for everything (like cotton t-shirts mentioned above), it is estimated that in the next 50 years, the supply will become sufficiently limited. That's bad news considering water contributes to over half our body weight and we're supposed to drink 8 glasses a day. I think we need to start looking at solutions for water waste before it's too late.


I had no idea how much water I consumed in the meals that I eat every day. This was a very interesting article. I agree with Taylor Water is taken for granted in the U.S, while in other countries people are already fighting for what little water they have. The water crisis might not have hit the U.S. yet but we'll soon begin seeing the effects in front of our eyes. We still haven't passed carbon emissions cap legislation; we should consider adding a water-cap to the legislation as well.


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This is very interesting. I had never thought about water in that way. This is just another way to educate people on saving water. There is no0t much that people can do about this, but it is just interesting to know how much water is being used just to make a product that is smaller then the amount of water used.


I always had an idea in my mind that there was water in the things I eat, but I wasn't aware how much. "in your tiny espresso there is 140 litres of water." that seems like an extreme amount, but it obviously is not. If more people were aware of this then I think it would decrease the amount of food we waste.


if you really think about it you use water more than you wouold ever think. almost everything we do have at least a little bit to do with water. it is crazy to think that one day we might have have availible to us the resource of water. even though the majority of the planet is water, we are still facing a water crisis. this should not be happening. make a device that can filter out salt and we will all be good.


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