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Abstract

Εveryday we are trying to be conscious of our water consumption. We take shorter showers, close the tap when brushing our teeth etc. But what do we all have in our houses that consumes a 900 days worth of drinking water?
The fashion industry is a massive consumer and polluter of our fresh water. And one of the biggest culprits is cotton.
Consumption

To produce just one cotton shirt requires approximately three thousand liters of water.

Textiles production (including cotton farming) uses around 93 billion cubic meters of water annually, representing 4% of global freshwater withdrawal.

Beyond production, washing clothing using washing machines is estimated to require an additional 20 billion cubic meters of water per year globally.

Clothing accounts for over two thirds of this water use. At present, many of the key cotton-producing countries are under high water stress, including China, India, the US, Pakistan, and Turkey. In China, 80% to 90% of fabric, yarn, and plastic-based fibers are made in water-scarce or water-stressed regions.

Pollution

Vibrant colours, prints and fabric finishes are appealing features of fashion garments, but many of these are achieved with toxic chemicals. Textile dyeing is the second largest polluter of clean water globally, after agriculture.

Manufacturing in the apparel industry also contributes to the water footprint of fashion. It’s estimated that around 20% of industrial water pollution in the world comes from the treatment and dyeing of textiles, and about 8,000 synthetic chemicals are used to turn raw materials into textiles.

Each year, textile companies discharge millions of gallons of chemically infected water into our waterways. It’s estimated that a single mill can use 200 tons of fresh water per ton of dyed fabric. So not only does this consume water, but the chemicals pollute the water causing both environmental damage and diseases throughout developing communities.

In India and Bangladesh, dye wastewater is discharged, often untreated, into nearby rivers eventually spreading into the sea. Reports show a dramatic rise of diseases in these regions due to the use of highly toxic chrome. In China, the world’s largest clothes exporter, the State’s Environmental Protection Administration declared that nearly one third of the countries’ rivers are classified as “too polluted for any direct human contact”.

The toxic chemical use in agriculture for growing cotton have devastating effects. The cotton grown worldwide is genetically modified in order to resist bollworm pest, thereby improving yield and reducing pesticide use. But this can also lead to problems further down the line, such as the emergence of “superweeds” which are resistant to standard pesticides. They often need to be treated with more toxic pesticides that are harmful to livestock and humans.

Some interesting facts

85 percent – The percentage of water used in textile processing that goes into dying the fabrics, which, in many cases, leads to run off, thereby polluting nearby water sources. (Cotton, Inc.)

3250 liters – How much water it takes to produce the cotton needed for one t-shirt – that is almost three years’ worth of drinking water. (WWF).

8183 liters – The gallons of water to grow enough cotton to produce just one pair jeans. (Tree Hugger).

113 billion liters –The water required for one year’s worth of global textile production (including cotton farming). (Elle MacArthur Foundation).

Read further from the link above

5.9 trillion liters – The amount of water used each year for fabric dyeing alone. (World Resources Institute). Read further using the link above