Virtual Water Server

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Each day, we drink 2.5 to 3 liters of water. Additionally, the average Japanese uses some 300 liters of water each day in utilities such as for the bath and toilet. However, if we add in the amount of water used to produce our food each day, water consumption for the average Japanese adds up to some 3,000 liters per day. When we think about our water consumption, most of us assume that we are referring only to our drinking water, but in fact, we use 100 times, or even 1,000 times more water than the amount that we drink each day.
This work was created as an attempt to make explicit otherwise unapparent forms of water consumption such as that which is represented within food on restaurant menus. We Japanese are currently only self-sufficient for about 40% of their food supply, which is to say that we are exceptionally reliant on water consumed on our behalf in other countries.
Water required to provide the essential food imports needed by an economy is called “virtual water.” To illustrate this concept we made a vending machine that takes orders and dispenses meal tickets, each of which lists the amount of virtual water for each menu item. For example, “One beef bowl: 2,000 liters of virtual water.” Our hope is that by providing a way to see the huge quantities water required to produce familiar meal items, we can raise popular awareness of water consumption.

created for “water” exhibition at 21_21 DESIGN SIGHT, Tokyo 2007-2008

Shinichi Takemura, Taku Satoh
(c) water project

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