What is a lack of water

How world trade is making water scarce

How real the virtual water consumption is

In Germany, every person uses around 120 liters of water per day in the household: for cooking, cleaning and showering, for flushing toilets, washing machines and dishwashers. But in total we use 33 times as much water a day, namely around 4,000 liters. This enormous number includes the water consumption for the production of the food and goods that every person in Germany consumes on average every day. This amount of water is called virtual water because it cannot be seen directly. It is still consumed, often in regions of the world that are already arid.

Lack of water hits poor people hardest

Around 2,000 liters of water are used to produce one kilogram of feed soy, mainly to irrigate the fields. The manufacture of a cotton T-shirt consumes around 2,500 liters of water, and the production of one kilogram of beef consumes 15,000 liters. This water is lacking for the supply of the people in arid producing countries. Even today, one fifth of the world's population lives in regions in which more water is consumed than flows back into the cycle. As a result, the groundwater level sinks in many places, which in turn causes drinking water wells to dry up.

The water shortage affects poor families and smallholders in particular. 2.1 billion people have no direct access to drinking water and have to travel long distances to get it. Those who live in suburban areas often have a hard time in many countries: the supply of drinking water only works for a few hours a day and is expensive. This is also due to the massive pollution of water by fertilizers and pesticides from agriculture, faeces and drugs from animal husbandry and poisons from industry. This consumption is also included in the calculation of the virtual water.

Project in Brazil

Rich harvests thanks to cisterns ... more

The rich countries have a duty

By 2050, water consumption for the production of food, industrial products and energy is expected to increase even further, by more than half. At 70 percent, intensive agriculture is the largest consumer of water. Weather extremes as a result of climate change will further exacerbate the current problems. Politicians must therefore encourage the agricultural sector and industry to use water as a resource much more responsibly and sustainably than before, especially since the right to clean water has been a human right since 2010. And Germany must of course noticeably reduce the import of virtual water from the arid regions of the world.

What Bread for the World does against water shortages

Bread for the World works with its partner organizations around the world to ensure that more people can supply themselves with drinking water. The partner organizations build, for example, catch basins, filter systems and water pipes. They advise family businesses on how they can survive droughts and improve the water storage capacity of their soils. And they train smallholder families how to save their harvests despite climate change and how to successfully grow rice and vegetables. In addition, Bread for the World promotes the upgrading of rain-fed agriculture because it is inexpensive, environmentally friendly and simple, which benefits the poorest smallholders in particular. And we defend the right to water, demand a say in municipal development planning and fight land grabbing by international corporations.

Multimedia report

Discover on the hidden object how we are committed to water.


What you can do yourself

Compared to other countries, we Germans are champions in saving water, but only in the household. We forget about the water that we consume through our consumption. A sustainable lifestyle significantly reduces the consumption of virtual water. For example, those who rely on seasonal and regional products usually use less water than buying imported goods. You can also urge industry and politics to introduce reliable seals that indicate virtual water consumption. And you can oblige companies to pay particular attention to the human rights of the population to water and food when doing business. Just give them your opinion.

Another possibility is a donation with which you support a socially just and ecologically sustainable water policy, for which Bread for the World is committed.

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