Fashion’s Thirst for Water: The Discomforting Facts Behind Freshwater Pollution

World Water Day is celebrated annually on March 22 to raise awareness about the significance of freshwater and promote the sustainable use of freshwater resources. Freshwater is necessary for human health, economic growth, and the survival of all living things. However, the fashion industry, one of the biggest polluters in the world, has a significant impact on freshwater resources.

From the manufacture of basic materials like cotton and leather to the dyeing and finishing of textiles, the fashion industry is responsible for a significant quantity of freshwater pollution. Some estimates imply that it takes as much as 10,000 to 20,000 litres of water to manufacture one kilogram of cotton in the fashion business. By using water resources in locations where water is already scarce, the sector also adds to water shortage.

Here are some additional facts about the fashion industry and freshwater pollution:

• After agriculture, the fashion industry is the world’s second largest consumer of water. 

• According to the UN, textile dyeing and treatment account for 20% of global water pollution.

• According to Common Objective, the industry consumes approximately 93 billion cubic metres of water per year, which is sufficient to meet the needs of 5 million people. 

• One cotton T-shirt requires approximately 2,700 litres of water, which is equivalent to the amount of water consumed by one person in 2.5 years. 

• The textile industry is one of the top five industrial water users and polluters. More than 70% of chemically polluted waste water in our ecosystems goes untreated. 

• Polyester is a major source of water pollution because it sheds millions of plastic microfibres when washed. Plastic fragments end up in our drinking water, posing a serious threat to marine life, which mistake it for food.


The fashion industry can reduce its impact on freshwater resources in a variety of ways. Here are a few ideas: 

1. Water-saving technologies can be implemented in the fashion industry, such as low-water dyeing, which reduces the amount of water used in the dyeing process. Closed-loop water systems, which recycle and reuse water in the manufacturing process, can also be used by businesses. 

2. Companies can use sustainable materials like organic cotton, bamboo, or recycled polyester, which require less water and have a lower environmental impact than traditional materials. 

3. Reduce overproduction and waste: The fast fashion model encourages overproduction and disposal of clothing, resulting in waste and pollution. Companies can reduce their environmental impact by producing fewer garments and focusing on high-quality, long-lasting garments that are designed to be reused or recycled. 

4. Use environmentally friendly dyes and chemicals: The use of hazardous chemicals in textile manufacturing contributes to water pollution. Eco-friendly dyes and chemicals that are less harmful to the environment can be used by businesses. 

5. Collaborate with suppliers and stakeholders: Companies can promote sustainable water management practises throughout the supply chain by collaborating with suppliers and other stakeholders. 

6. Encourage the use of circular fashion models: Circular fashion models encourage the reuse and recycling of clothing, which reduces waste and water usage. Companies can promote circular models by designing garments from recyclable materials and implementing clothing take-back programmes. 

7. Educate customers: Businesses can educate customers about the environmental impact of their purchasing decisions and promote sustainable fashion options that reduce water usage and pollution.


Finally, the fashion industry’s impact on freshwater resources cannot be overlooked. It is critical that we all work together to reduce industry water consumption and pollution. We can have a significant impact on freshwater resources and the environment as a whole by taking small steps like choosing sustainable fashion brands and supporting sustainable water management practises.


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