Thursday, August 30, 2012

Does It Take 66,000 Gallons of Water Per Year for Home Newspaper Delivery?

During the past few weeks I have posted some interesting infographics. Some of have had some questionable numbers regarding water use and waste.
One, posted on 22 July 2012had a transposition mistake that resulted in a 27,000 gallon per year figure for a leaking faucet instead of 2,700 gallons per year [see this 24 July 2012 post].
Another post on 11 July 2012, had an infographic, The Water Rich vs. The Water Poor. That infographic had 100 gallons per day for a leaky faucet. At 36,500 gallons per year, that is higher than the aforementioned 27,000 gallons per year.
I missed that figure at the time of posting, but another figure caught my eye:
Receiving one newspaper each day requires 66,000 gallons of water each year
I immediately thought to myself "That's got to be too high - about 0.20 acre-feet per Imagesyear!"
Here is the reference given for that figure (you might also note the leaky faucet figures given). Just the number was given; no calculations were presented.
I set out to verify this number. Not easy to do.
At this site I found that 300,000,000 gallons of water are needed to produce one day's supply of newsprint for the USA. Here I found that about 46,500,000 newspapers (rounded) circulate each day (as of 2009). Assuming that all the US newsprint goes into printing the daily newspapers, I calculated about 6.5 gallons of water per newspaper. Over the course of a year, that equals about 2,400 gallons per year to produce (figuring newsprint water use only) my daily newspaper. 
I have made a lot of assumptions here; for one thing I have neglected the amount of water spent gathering the news that goes into the paper. So let's use an 'engineering safety factor' and quadruple my estimate - 10,000 gallons of water per year to produce my daily newspaper. That is much less than 66,000 gallons per year, but 10,000 gallon figure does not include delivery. Does the delivery of a single newspaper each day require 56,000 gallons per year, or about 153 gallons per day?
That's hard to believe.
I get two newspapers delivered per day, from two different vendors. Does that mean 132,000 gallons of water (0.40 acre-feet) are used annually? 
If anyone can find fault with my estimates, I'd like to know. I just can't believe that a single delivered newspaper consumes 66,000 gallons of water per year, unless it's the equivalent of the Sunday New York Times, in which case all bets are off.
And I'm unsure the following quote is true, but I did find it on the internet!
"With the Internet, the greatest disseminator of bad data and bad information the universe has ever known, it's become impossible to trust any news from any source at all, because it's filtered through this crazy yenta gossip line. It's impossible to know anything." -- Harlan Ellison, 1998

By Michael Campana@WaterWired All things fresh water: news, analysis, humor, and commentary from Michael E. 'Aquadoc' Campana, hydrogeologist, hydrophilanthropist, Professor of Hydrogeology and Water Resources in the College of Earth, Ocean, and Atmospheric Sciences (CEOAS) at Oregon State University.

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