Being a responsible citizen of the earth might mean freezing your jeans.
According to Levi’s, one pair of jeans, from its inception in the cotton field to its demise in the recycling bin, uses over 900 gallons of water. To reduce the climate change impact of your jeans by 48% (yes, Levi’s is precise), you could wash them one quarter as much–maybe once a month instead of weekly.
The Levi’s story does take us to questions about using water wisely. Discussed in this podcast, depending on where and when, wise water use relates to its quality and quantity. For Nature, water use is a “cropping efficiency” issue that will help us feed everyone in 2050. And for one Indian cotton farmer, this NY Times article describes the beneficial impact of targeted irrigation
From 2007, here is a NY Times interactive on where in the world water is scarce.
The Economic Lesson
As economists, we can predict that an increase in the cost of water will become the most potent conservation incentive.