10 Fashion Industry Water Facts to Know for World Day to Combat Desertification

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Did you know June 17th is World Day to Combat Desertification? Created by the United Nations in 1994, this annual day of observance highlights the urgent need for the entire world to curb the desertification process. Growing Blue reports that 2.5 billion people (36% of the world population) live in water-scarce regions and more than 20% of the global GDP is already produced in risky, water-stressed areas. Growing Blue writes, “Given today’s accelerated pace of human development and the slow pace of managing issues as complex as water resources, tomorrow’s challenges are already at our door.”

Whether individual, collective, agriculturally focused or industrially inclined, addressing water scarcity begins with you. We’ll call it (cough) the ripple effect. While you work on some possible real-life scenarios for making change, we’ve created 10 fashion industry water facts for you to mull over as you ask yourself whether you need to wash your denim tonight.

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Greenpeace Detox image

1. More than 20 percent of the world’s commercial products are produced in increasingly water-scarce areas of the globe. Countries like China, India, Bangladesh and Pakistan are exporting the majority of our clothes and shoes. (Growing Blue)

2. It takes about 2,720 litres of water to produce just one cotton shirt – a number equivalent to what an average person drinks over three years. In one of the 43 countries currently suffering from water scarcity, this is enough to sustain a family of four for almost nine months. (EJF)

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3. According to the Environmental Justice Foundation’s report on The True Costs of Cotton, The Aral Sea in Central Asia, once the fourth largest inland sea in the world, has now shrunk to 10% of its former size. The depletion of this resource-rich oasis stands as one of the most condemning examples of unsustainable cotton production. (EJF)

4. The Citarum River in Indonesia, referred to by Indonesian activists and writers as “the cradle of our nation’s culture,” is used as a private sewage dumping system by industrial facilities. 68% of these facilities are producing textiles. The waste from these companies’ printing and dyeing processes are earning the Citarum the reputation as one of the dirtiest rivers on earth. (Greenpeace)

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The Citarum River, HydrateLife image

5. 72 toxic chemicals in China’s water originate solely from dyeing textiles. 30 can’t be removed. (China Water Risk)

6. Recycling water is a sustainable solution, but chemicals in the water make it this daunting. It is still possible, however; Levi’s recently worked with one of its Chinese suppliers to make 100,000 pairs of jeans using 100% recycled water. (The Guardian)

7. Many dyes used on cotton are reactive dyes, which produce bright and permanent colors, but don’t always bond well with the fabric. Any dye that doesn’t bond must be rinsed off, and will eventually end up public rivers, lakes, or other water surfaces. Nike’s recently developed ColorDry process uses super-charged liquid CO2, which effectually forces the dye into the fabric and prevents this additional runoff. (Triplepundit)

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Greenpeace Detox image

8. As a clothing consumer, you have revolutionary power. Huge amounts of water and energy can be saved by precautionary measures taken in the home like installing nozzles on hoses, monitoring leaky toilets, and re-wearing jeans before washing (#10WEARS1WASH)

9. The Better Cotton Initiative, founded in 2005, strives to make cotton more sustainable by reducing water inputs and encouraging sustainable growing techniques. The Initiative works with cotton farmers to educate them on BCI’s 6 Production Principles: Crop Protection, Water, Soil Health, Natural Habitats for Insects, Fibre Quality, and Decent Worker Conditions. (Better Cotton Initiative)

10. The United States is primed for the worst droughts recorded in the last 1000 years. (Inhabitat)