The production of a microchip devours ...

... 32 litres of water.

Consumer goods also contain water - namely water that was used for production. Experts also speak of virtual water. A microchip uses about 32 litres, a complete computer 20,000 litres, a car 400,000 litres of water.

(Source: GEO - german)

Numbers, please! Virtual water in technology

20,000 litres of virtual water - that's how much is in a single computer. Apart from the fact that one does not (or should not) normally associate computers with water - is that a lot or a little? For comparison: 5,000 litres of water must flow to produce a pack of copy paper (500 A4 sheets), and at least 15,500 litres for a kilogram of beef.

Virtual water in US dollars

Water in the computer or smartphone in the water is usually an indication that the technology will be unusable from now on. Virtual water in the PC and smartphone, on the other hand, gives an impression of how much of the rare commodity had to be spent from planning to the finished product.

Virtual or latent water is the amount of water that can be allocated to a product during production after a comprehensive analysis. In the USA this is about 100 litres per dollar, in Western Europe about 50 litres and for products from Asia about 20 litres of virtual water.

Green, blue and grey virtual water

Different types of virtual water are included in the calculation, depending on the origin and type of water supply.

Different types of virtual water are distinguished: Green virtual water comes from precipitation and natural soil moisture. Blue virtual water is used for irrigation. Grey virtual water means water that can only be reused to a limited extent due to impairment during its use.

The aim of the breakdown of water consumption is to have a transparent balance of water consumption and to counteract future water shortages through the sensitive use of water.

How much virtual water is there in ...?

While a sheet of paper consumes around 10 litres of virtual water, a single microchip uses 32 litres. A cup of coffee a day is preceded by 140 litres, and the production of a smartphone requires 910 litres of virtual water. An entire circuit board requires 4165 litres. However, the front-runner among technical products is the computer. The production effort in virtual water amounts to 20,000 litres or more than 142 standard bathtubs (140 litres each).

Water is needed for the entire manufacturing process. In the case of smartphones, this means that water flows from baking the microchips, to shaping and manufacturing the metals and other raw materials, to making the batteries, to polishing the touch screen - a total of 910 litres.

If we now follow the forecast that the number of activated mobile phones will soon exceed that of the world's population, this results in 6.7 trillion litres of water that were used for their production. I prefer to spare myself the conversion into bathtubs here.

Water footprint in country comparison

In Germany, about 1,545 m³ (or 1,545,000 litres) of virtual water are used per inhabitant per year. In the USA, each person even uses 2,483 m³ per year. In Japan it is 1,153 m³ and in China even only 702 m³. By the way: While Germany is the world champion in exporting other goods, the situation is different for virtual water: Here, more is imported than exported.

Germany is in the top half in terms of latent water consumption. The reason for this is the high consumption of industrial products and meat, which require a lot of water during production.

(Source: heise online - german)