March 22, 2010

World Water Day: It's A Simple Equation

Posted: 02:54 PM ET

Thomas M. Kostigen is the author of "The Green Blue Book: The Simple Water-Savings Guide to Everything in Your Life." His commentary is an LKL Web Exclusive.

I was standing by a dry riverbed in Ethiopia not far from where the refugee camps were set up with funds from the ‘We Are The World’ campaign. A young girl, maybe 10, maybe 12, wearing a purple dress came up to me—western white man—and asked for a pencil. She wanted it, she said, so she could do her homework, go to school, become a doctor and help people in her village.

That connection changed my life. I’ve even dedicated my latest book, "The Green Blue Book: The Simple Water-Savings Guide to Everything in Your Life," to her. She showed me how we are all connected, or can be, and how we can affect people in the most amazing ways, in ways perhaps we never even imagined.

For example, every one in the world shares the same source of freshwater. Actually, almost to the drop the exact same amount of freshwater has existed on the planet since the time of dinosaurs. When we use more “here” it affects people, places, and things over “there.” Water is made up of molecules, two hydrogen atoms and one oxygen atom, which get broken apart and put back together, broken apart and put back together through the water cycle. It means that snow on the Himalayas may once have been rain on your roof, or a splash in the Great Lakes. Water molecules move about.

But we seldom think of this when we water our lawns, flush the toilet, or turn on the tap. The average American uses 656,000 gallons of water per year. Much of this is water we can’t even see.

Virtual water, or embedded water, is what we use most. Virtual water is the water it takes to make something, anything. It takes about 123 gallons of water to grow a pound of oats. So the virtual water count of this pound of oats is 123 gallons. Now, extend this to a slice of beef. Since cattle have to feed on oats or some other grain and obviously need to drink water themselves, their virtual water count is higher than that of what they chew. It also takes water to process their meat. The virtual water footprint of a pound of beef, therefore, is 1,500 gallons. When you understand that there’s a virtual water count to producing everything—a beer (20 gallons), a glass of wine (30 gallons), a cup of coffee (37 gallons), a cup of tea (5 gallons), a car (39,000 gallons), a bicycle (480 gallons)—you can make water-smart choices. This is why I dedicated The Green Blue Book to that young girl in the purple dress. By understanding the virtual water content of the things we consume, we can save not only water—also lives; and they may be half a world away.

The riverbed I was standing next to when I met that young girl doesn’t have to be forever dry. We can save the water we see as well as the water we don’t see to shore up the world’s supply. We’re all connected to it. Today is World Water Day, a day dedicated to remembering that connection.

To find out more and to calculate your water footprint go to

Filed under: LKL Web Exclusive

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A. Smith, Oregon   March 22nd, 2010 3:44 pm ET

With Global Warming, there is going to be more water vapor in the atmosphere which leads to more flooding and heavy snows in some areas while you have severe droughts in other regions.

This years El Nino shifted the jet-stream higher than normal driving much of the precipitation away from the Pacific Northwest and down thru Canada into the Mid-West and Eastern coasts.

This can be confusing to the layperson and used by the nefarious Republican party as faux proof of no global warming taking place by their Big Oil masters. Body's of water are now more unstable in regards to remaining at the same locations and in the same amounts as before. Meaning lakes lowering, lower rivers and lower reservors.

A great many laypersons do not give a second thought on the absolute critical need for a city or metro area for mass amounts of clean fresh water. As long as the tap turns on or they can buy bottled water at the 7-11 its all fine with them! As Global Warming encroaches on the amounts of clean fresh water available to large city's and metro-areas in America and around the world, a great many changes will need to occur to offset that problem.

Many civilizations in the past had to pack-up and immigrate to a entirely distant area when available fresh water supplys dried up. Cities cannot continue supporting their residents if that cities fresh water supply disappears.

Dodie   March 22nd, 2010 4:00 pm ET

A severe drought has hit china this year and millions are struggling. China said more 20 million people and 12 million head of livestock are short of drinking water. What is even more devastating ….It is estimated that the reservoirs in Yunnan Province will dry up completely if the drought continues until May. This translates into 25 – 30 million people with no available drinking water… or water of any kind.

Guizhou Province and the Guangxi Zhuang Regions also face the same problem. In Guizhou, more than 3 million people in farmland areas are short of grain supply due to poor spring harvests from lack of rain. This translates to starvation for these people. Nearly 90 percent of the China's drought-hit farmland are in Yunnan, Guizhou, Guangxi, Sichuan and Chongqing.

The Chinese premier Wen Jiabao visited the worst hit areas yesterday. Premier Wen Jiabao said, "As long as we unite together, we can surely overcome this big disaster." With the numbers of our population increasing, I can see this will be a continued problem for all of mankind!

Frank Simpkins   March 22nd, 2010 4:15 pm ET

Larry , I love your show, you have always freely discussed controversial issues. Now that it seems that we have a health care bil passed and awaiting the President's signature, lets move on to equally, if not more important issues such as reducing this coountry's horrendous Black/White Academic Achievement Gap between Black inner-city, non-mainstream and White mainstream students....Black students graduate three years behind Wl

Frank Simpkins   March 22nd, 2010 4:29 pm ET

Larry , I love your show, you have always freely discuss controversial issues. Now that it seems we have a health care bil passed and awaiting the President's signature, lets move on to equally, if not more important issues such as reducing this country's horrendous Black/White Academic Achievement Gap between Black inner-city, non-mainstream and White mainstream students....Black students graduate three years behind White kids...Black students have a drop-out rate of 53%..If we combine this drop-out rate with the highly conservative estimate that 16% of these students will fail to pass state required exit exams, we arrive at a figure, indicating that only 37% of Black students wiil receive high school diplomas!... The Black/White Academic Achievement Gap can be effectively addressed and substantially reduced during this decade....History teaches us that "men and nations behave wisely, when they have exhausted all other alternatives"..(Abba Eban)..Our latest book "Between the Rhetoric and Reality" Lauriat Press;Simpkins&Simpkins,2009...can be previewed on either" Amazon.Com, or Borders"

A. Smith, Oregon   March 22nd, 2010 4:41 pm ET

The DIRTY SECRET Republicans do not want YOU to know!

“The sheer scale of dirty water means more people now die from contaminated and polluted water than from all forms of violence including wars,” the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) said.

This includes 2.2 million people whose deaths are attributed to diarrhea, mostly from dirty water, and 1.8 million children aged under five who succumb to water-borne diseases. This equates to one infant every 20 seconds!!!

Far more infants are dieing everyday because of lack of adequate health treatment than by abortions everyday. And yet the Republican Party was unanimous against saving infants from dieing from inadequate Health Care in America!

Jim Carroll   March 22nd, 2010 6:52 pm ET


DR GARY   March 22nd, 2010 8:55 pm ET


martin j glaccum   March 22nd, 2010 10:01 pm ET

Who do you think is buying up the World water rights. Report on that. Or are you invested in that stock? I thought you were. The next war is going to be over oil or for sure over Water. What would happen if you told that truth, people are such sheep they wouldn't even hear you.

Sarah Diamond   March 22nd, 2010 10:28 pm ET

As I write , the republicans are burning the midnight oil trying to find any way to repeal the decision that over 50 percent of the american people are in favor of. It's obvious that the party of "NO" wants to protect the insurance industry and keep things the same! Change is "NOT" something they believe in.

Mark Razien   March 23rd, 2010 2:02 am ET

Put down your Republican vs Democrat, White vs Black, America vs Iran, and PAY CLOSE ATTENTION. So gradually has the water molecule been changing into the most catastrophic danger to this planet, humans haven't even paid attention. The water molecule, for the pass 200 years, has been slowly becoming less absorbable, and this change, or mutation, is increasing in speed. In the 1960's, the average adult human was 80% water content. It was reported in 2006, we are now only 67% water. With this dehydrating effect, the transfer of nutrients into and the removal of toxins from all plant and animal cells deminish. The result being more illnesses with more severe symptoms, illnesses of the elderly becoming more common in young adults, more birth defects, and mental illness due to the lack of physical abilities. The bottom line is: "As far as biomechanics are concerned, water is becoming a solid." Yes, there is the technology to fix this problem, but only a house, apartment complex, or a city at a time, maybe even a river or large lake could be treated. I have been eight years trying to get help to do some large scale and expensive testing. But, nobody understands the TRUE danger water poses. Just wish someone would listen.... then, maybe health care would not be such a big deal.

Peter Hemple   March 23rd, 2010 5:45 am ET

What a shame the author of the green blue book has refused to publish a simple guide of how to consume less water on his website. Kind of ironic that in order for us to find this out we need to use up thousands of gallons of water buying his book, and lining his pocket!

Jessie from Auckland, NZ   March 23rd, 2010 9:43 am ET

How nice to have a "WORLD WATER DAY" honour and to give thanks for..........and to bring our attention to..........a commodity that is more valuable than gold. (You can't eat gold).

Would just like to thank Thomas M. Kostigen and for his book "The Green Blue Book" (the simple Water Savings Guide to everything in your life).........and for his efforts in highlighting one of the most important necessities of life. The stats are amazing.

How about all the people that own swimming pools. Wouldn't you say that is a wasteful use of water or would you say that it is a fundamental human right?

Water is taken so much more for granted in the more affluent societies, I think.

Jessie from Auckland, NZ   March 23rd, 2010 9:49 am ET

@Mark Razien March 23rd, 2010 2:02 am ET

Interesting comments and scary as well, I must say.

Ted   March 23rd, 2010 10:23 am ET

Hey, we are prejudiced!
We have a water day, a day of women, black history day, etc. etc.

How about a red wine drinkers´ day?!

Jessie from Auckland, NZ   March 23rd, 2010 10:58 am ET

"World Water Day: It's A Simple Equation"...........but no simple solutions, maybe?........

Stuart N Hayden   April 15th, 2010 2:46 am ET

One gallon of ethanol requires 1,500 gallons to make. You should add that to your great list.

Take care,

Stuart N. Hayden

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