'Today' Unveils 'Water Footprint' Alarmism

     If you watch television, you’ve almost certainly heard of the damage your “carbon footprint” supposedly does to the environment. NBC’s “Today” show took the metaphor a step further Nov. 21 by warning viewers about their “water footprint.”

     “[F]resh water is disappearing at an alarming rate,” co-host Lester Holt declared at the beginning of an interview with author and environmental activist Thomas Kostigen.

     The show was wrapping up its second-annual “Ends of the Earth” special, which sent the hosts across the globe – on carbon-spewing flights to places like Mt. Kilimanjaro and Sydney. The week’s theme was one of earth’s most abundant natural resources: water.

     “It’s interesting here you say ‘water footprint’ because I hear the term ‘carbon footprint’ a lot, what we’re putting in the air. I don’t hear ‘water footprint,’” Holt said.

     Kostigen said a “water footprint” is a representation of “the water that it takes to make anything. For example, it’s the water we don’t see and that’s our biggest use of it. We each, every one of us in the United States, use 656,000 gallons of water for everything that we do on our daily life. That’s an amazing statistic.”

     Holt agreed, and compared the apparent shortage of water to the financial crisis facing the U.S. economy.

     “And there’s not much of it out there,” Holt said. “And we saw this week the glacial melt in Iceland, the snows and glaciers of Kilimanjaro disappearing and for me it’s almost like the financial crisis. It’s like okay I know it’s bad, it brings me down, what can I, what can I do about something that global, that large?”

     Kostigen explained that in much the same way Americans are told they must monitor their carbon footprint, they must also monitor their water footprint and make “really smart” decisions about what products they buy.

     “Let’s just take wheat,” Kostigen said. “A hundred and twenty pounds of water to make and grow that wheat before it ends up on your plate. But then you take something like beef, which takes 3,600 gallons of water before it ends up on your plate. So there’s really a water footprint for your suit, for your glasses, for your shoes. Everything has a water footprint and there’s ways to calculate that and then make really smart decisions about how to lessen your impact.”

     He didn’t specify how much wheat 120 “pounds” of water would help produce, nor how much beef 3,600 gallons of water would help feed. The Water Footprint Network estimates on its Web site that it takes about 4,226 gallons to produce two pounds of beef.