Every time we eat an egg, we consume 135 litres of water. For each glass of wine we drink, we consume 135 litres. And if we wear a cotton T-shirt, the water consumption reaches 2,000 litres. How come it is so? Simple: one needs to take into account the water used to irrigate the vineyard, to farm a hen, and to cultivate the cotton.
These considerations were made by the WWF at the 2008 World Water Week, which finished a few days ago in Stockholm. The average Italian used 215 litres of water every day for washing and drinking, but the figure becomes 30 times higher if you consider the virtual water used to make the food we eat and the clothes we wear. In this way, every Italian consumes 6,500 litres of water per day. This is the highest figure in the world, excluding the USA. Moreover, 70% of it comes from abroad, as Italy in the fifth largest importer of water in the world.
Water can be considered one of Italy’s future emergencies. Northern Italy has plenty of good-quality water resources, while in the South and the islands water resources are scarce and will probably contract in the next few years.
Another considerable problem is water pollution, and the high costs connected with the purification of it. As a matter of fact, now Italians can drink water without purification, but up to a few years ago expensive processes were necessary to make water potable.
WWF is now focusing on ways to reduce water consumption. The first method consists in improving field irrigation and water collection technology, in order to avoid wasting more water in these processes. A second way would be reducing the consumption of meat, which is responsible for a high water use in its production. Some serious legislation in Italy is also needed in order to regulate the supply, demand and management of water.