When Will We Get 'Water Efficiency' Ratings on Cars?Those who are not familiar with manufacturing processes are often surprised to learn just how much water is used to make everyday things like cars, electronic devices, appliances, etc. But a lot of those manufacturing processes were first developed decades ago, back when using vast quantities of water was unfortunately not seen as a big problem. But it doesn't have to be like this; proof can be found in the many companies that have greatly reduced the embedded water footprint of their products. A lot remains to be done, that's for sure, but it's worth highlighting good news when we get them, such as the announcement by Ford that they have set a water per vehicle reduction target of 30% by 2015, on top of their global water use decrease of 49% between 2000 and 2010 (45% in North America). It's a good start, and I hope that it'll encourage others who have less ambitious targets, or none at all, to follow suit. But even that is only the beginning of a longer process that leads to as close to zero net water use as possible (ie. the same water is cleaned up and used in a closed loop).
Between 2000 and 2010, Ford reduced its global water use by 62 percent (this is different than the per-vehicle number above), or 10.5 billion gallons. They've made the infographic above to give us some context on how much water that represents.
Transparency and Competition are Required
What I'd like to see are official 'water efficiency' ratings for most consumer goods so that people can see which manufacturer is doing the best job, and so that companies can compete for leadership in that area in the same way that they do in fuel efficiency for cars or energy efficiency for electronics. Of course, water usage isn't the same as fossil fuel usage, for example, because the water is still there after use. But there should still be metrics to determine the impact of water use, because certain regions are more prone to droughts, and some industrial processes pollute water more than others, etc.