Canada Water Week is a celebration of water from coast-to-coast-to-coast, taking place from March 19 to 25, 2012 with special events for UN World Water Day on March 22. This year’s theme is “Discover Your Water Footprint.”

What is a water footprint? Well, the food we eat, the clothes we buy and the products we use are all embedded with something called virtual water (for example, the water used to grow the cotton for our jeans and t-shirts). When combined with the water we use in our homes, it adds up to create our entire water footprint.

So how big is your water footprint? According to a 2011 RBC/Unilever poll, Canadians consistently rank water as the country’s most precious resource, yet we are among the highest consumers of water in the world. The average Canadian consumes nearly 6,400 litres of water every day, which, to put it in context, is more water than a daily 10-minute shower produces in two months. More than 90 per cent of that falls in the embedded water category, and the numbers may surprise you:

Coffee: It takes 1,100 drops of water to produce a single drop of coffee.

Car: It takes 400,000 litres of water to produce a new car. That’s enough to ice eight NHL regulation-sized rinks.

Gardening: In the summer, municipal water use doubles. A typical lawn sprinkler running for one hour uses about the same amount of water as two five-minute showers, one load of laundry, two dishwasher cycles and 10 toilet flushes combined!

Wine: About 120 litres of water are used to create one 125-millilitre glass of wine. Most of this usage comes from grape production. Canada’s Okanagan Valley uses about 13 billion litres of water a year to bring the region’s wine to your table.

Hamburger: Take one all-beef patty from Alberta, one whole-wheat bun from the prairies, lettuce grown in Québec, and tomatoes and cheese from Ontario, and you’re looking at a recipe with a water footprint of about 2,400 litres.

So have we convinced you to give up your car, wine and fast food? Don’t worry, we’re not asking you to. The good news is that there are lots of other ways you can reduce your water footprint and most are easier than you think.

“Everyone has a water footprint. There’s no getting around that. What’s important is that we become more aware of our whole water footprint,” said Eric Mysak, Freshwater Conservation Analyst at WWF-Canada. “That way, we’re better equipped to make choices about our consumption patterns that can have a positive impact on our rivers and lakes.”

If you’re thinking about renovating your bathroom, Tim Morris, Fresh Water Program Manager at the Walter and Duncan Gordon Foundation, has this tip: “Make sure to look for the WaterSense® label on toilets and fixtures. This will ensure you get a quality product that uses at least 20 per cent less water. Since toilets can account for almost 30 per cent of your indoor water use, switching to something more efficient can make a real difference.”

Okay, so it sounds easy enough to conserve water but why is it important? If you think about it, water is a renewable resource, which means the water we’re using now is the same water we’ll be using a generation from now.

“Water may be a renewable resource but we still need to conserve it; reducing your household water use helps reduce the energy required to treat and supply water,” said Kat Hartwig, Executive Director of Living Lakes Network Canada. “Getting involved in Canada Water Week is a great way to learn about what you can do to make a difference today and for decades to come.”

In Canada, we have a lot to be thankful for. Our breathtaking rivers and lakes are the envy of the world. And now we have a week-long celebration called Canada Water Week during which we can pay tribute to this precious resource. To find out more, visit

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