Tracking how the world guzzles water

16 February 2012

New York Times | February 15, 2012

With the world’s freshwater supplies under mounting pressure from pollution and galloping consumption, understanding the how, where and why of water use is more important than ever.

To that end, scientists from the University of Twente in the Netherlands have released a new study analyzing the quantity and distribution of global water use from 1996 to 2005.

The study, published in the Proceedings of the National Academies of Science is the third major research effort to tackle the daunting question of global water consumption patterns, and it has improved on previous attempts by breaking down the different ways in which people use water. Those can broadly be thought of as the volume of rainwater consumed, the volume of ground and surface water depleted and the volume of water polluted.Globally, agriculture accounts for 92 percent of all freshwater use, with the water-intensive production of cereal grains like wheat, rice and corn accounting for 27 percent of the world’s water footprint. Meat production is responsible for 22 percent and dairy for 7 percent, the study indicates.

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