06/13/2009 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Water Footprint: How Much Water Your Stuff Takes

We've all heard about carbon footprints. We know that the stuff we buy and use leaves a long trail of... stuff. A T-shirt involved growing cotton, which requires a lot of manual and mechanical work, it had to be turned into cotton as we know it, shipped, cut and sewn, shipped, packaged and labeled and maybe printed on, shipped and then -- voila -- sold!

But as water scarcity becomes increasingly pressing in nearer and nearer parts of the world, some folks think we need to pay attention to our water footprints, too. One latte, for example, requires 53 gallons of water!

Columbia News Service reports that a lot of people have no idea how much water goes into the production of their goods:

As she waited in line for her cup of decaf, Rachel Friedman, a 26-year-old nursing student, thought long and hard about the volume of water needed to make a cup of coffee and then offered "10 cups." When she heard the actual amount--592 cups--she was stunned.

Happily (sort of) people are developing ways for consumers to keep track of their water footprints.

Here's the easiest water footprint calculator I've seen.