Go figure: one swig costs buckets of water
By Deborah Smith Science Editor
May 25, 2005
You're feeling good: you've been for a run and you've had a very quick
shower to save water. But you might want to think before you gulp down
that sports drink.
While a shorter stint in the bathroom could save 25 litres of water,
about 200 litres of water are needed to make a $2 soft drink, according
to a study of the Australian economy.
But 21,000 litres of water are needed to produce a kilogram bag of rice
worth $2.50 - a venture that generates only six minutes of work.
The study examined the environmental, social and financial impact of
135 different industries and, according to its author, Barney Foran, of
the CSIRO, could help people decide how to better spend their money. An
environ-mentally conscious jogger, for example, might decide "a cup of
water out of the tap is all you need". A socially conscious one might
might weigh the jobs the soft drink industry contributes to the economy
against the money it provides government coffers.
Balancing Act, which Mr Foran wrote with two physicists, Christopher
Dey and Manfred Lenzen, of Sydney University, is also aimed at helping
businesses and governments set priorities and identify areas for
It took three years using complex mathematics for the team to condense
vast amounts of information into a simple representation of the impact
of different goods and services on 10 areas. They are: water use, land
disturbance, greenhouse gas emissions and energy use; employment,
worker income and government revenue; and profits, exports and imports.
Rice growing, for example, needs 200 times more water and produces four
times more greenhouse gases than the average calculated for the whole
economy. However, it generates 50 per cent more jobs than the average,
most of them in regional areas.