What it really takes to have a cup of tea or any other thing you eat wear or use is the focus ofProf. Arjen Y. Hoekstra of Water Footprint Network. From Luke Brummer and Sean Tokarz at Metropolis P/O/V and some extra pictures from Water Footprint:
Photo: Luke Brummer.
How many liters of virtual water does it take to make one pot of tea? Close to 90 liters, depending on where the tea was grown. The virtual water content of a product is the volume of freshwater used to produce it, illuminating the fact that—from source to glass—much more water goes in to making a product than the amount of water it contains. This is what inspired German designer Timm Kekeritzto create a simple graphic to display the amount of virtual-water it takes to produce certain everyday products.
The Global Water Footprint Standard is contained in the Water Footprint Assessment Manual
Kekeritz, an interactive designer who has practiced professionally for 10 years, had always focused on water conservation. But after reading Dr. Arjen Y. Hoekstra’s paper on the amount of indirect virtual water in items like tea and coffee, he designed a poster that made the topic easier to visually comprehend. The popular infographic has since been published in multiple magazines includingSEED, IDN, and Gestalten Verlag and inspired the creation of the iOS application Virtual Water. We spoke with the designer about his thoughts on virtual water consumption and the app intended to spark conversations about our disappearing resource.
University of Kansas Students: What drew you to designing the infographic?
Timm Kekeritz: I stumbled upon waterfootprint.org by professor Hoekstra and found his paper about the virtual amount of water in a cup of tea that you drink in Amsterdam; what it takes to get all the tea from South America, ship it to the Netherlands and then have that cup of tea in a cafe. I was stunned by the amount [of water involved in this process]—and I just drove into the research and scientific papers. It was really interesting. Somehow I got to the spreadsheet that laid out examples of various products and how much virtual water was used to make those products, and I thought that’s really interesting information, but the spreadsheet just doesn’t do it.
KUS: Has the portability of the mobile application helped users consume efficiently? How has the application changed the way this information is spread to other consumers?
TK: Basically our idea was the conservation starter, but nobody had the poster with them. From my experience, it was a great tool to get your phone out of your pocket and say, “Hey, look how much water is in a chicken steak.” On the other hand, the digital medium gave us the freedom of also accommodating different units American gallons and ounces. In the printed world, we would have to print two posters but in the app it is just a switch. I believe the app concept is a great way to use information graphics because it makes it even more tangible if you can move the slider, scan through lists, and select something. It is a different way of interacting with information.