Crédits : Creative Commons, Angela Morelli

Angela Morelli, revealing the hidden oceans

Did you know that you consume 3,496 liters of water every day? There is the water you drink and use for washing, and the water that means you can eat.

“There is an invisible ocean flowing in every grain of wheat," Angela Morelli firmly asserted at the TED conference in Oslo in 2011. The smiling young Italian woman with a degree in information design had come to talk about virtual water in front of a riveted audience.

Roughly 92% of the water used by mankind is used in food production"

Virtual water is the amount of water used to produce a commodity – it is the water that is invisible to the consumer, despite representing the majority of our use. It takes water to produce cereals, meat, cotton and paper. The term virtual water appeared in 1995 in the work of the British geographer John Anthony Allan.

Angela Morelli recalled, "it all started in 2006 when I read something written by Ismail Serageldin (Editor’s note: a World Bank expert) who in 1995 predicted, "if the wars in this century have often been motivated by oil, those in the next century will be fought over water.” Immediately she decided to devote all her time to the issue of virtual water. How can a graphic designer get involved in this kind of mission? "I thought I could use information design to make the concept known and share my knowledge. Information is only powerful if properly understood. My job is to provide the tools that will enable people to create solutions," explains Angela.

Rigorous, the young woman has spent years reading several hundred page reports, talking to scientists and attending and speaking at conferences before publishing "The Water We Eat", a virtual water infographic aimed at the general public. A mammoth task given the complexity of the subject and the abundance of data available.

The result is both beautiful and clear. Fun and sophisticated, the animation explains how domestic water accounts for only 4% of our total consumption. Food is the most water-intensive item. For example, Angela explains in detail how she calculated that the production of one kilogram of beef requires... 15,400 liters of water!

"For years, the belief was hammered into me that the water crisis was associated with taking baths or brushing your teeth, but the real problem is what we eat, how we produce it, how we transport it and how we waste it. Approximately 92% of the water used by people is used in food production," she insists, determined to firmly re-establish some basic truths.

Fully engaged, the infographic concludes with these three tips: reduce meat consumption, prefer meadow raised cattle and don’t waste food. Food waste is also the subject of another infographic that Angela produced after the one on virtual water. "When we waste even a tiny proportion of food, we are wasting the resources that were needed to produce it. Because we waste a lot, I thought it would be useful to throw myself into the global waste figures and tell that story too."

For more information:

- www.angelamorelli.com
- Angela Morelli’s virtual water infographic
- Her food waste infographic
- Her presentation at the TED conference in Oslo in 2011

Main picture: Credits : Creative Commons, Angela Morelli

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