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water usage In the textile industry

Without water there would be no life on Earth.  In the UK we are fortunate enough to have a seemingly infinite supply of water and, as such, it is hard to imagine a world without it.  But for the 2 billion people currently living in water-stressed countries, this nightmare is a reality.  

It is estimated that, around the world, water shortages are causing the deaths of approximately 5 million people a year - with many having no access to clean water for hydration or good sanitation.  At Textile Rebellion, we are committed to fighting the mass-wastage of water which is contributing to such catastrophic shortages.  With this article, our upcoming social media campaign and much more, we aim to shine a light on the huge role the textile industry is playing in this unsustainable water usage, and to encourage mass change for the good of humanity and the planet.

As the third highest user of water (after oil and paper), the textile industry’s impact on global water supplies is monstrous.  A kilogram of cotton alone takes an average of 10,000 litres of water to cultivate.  A third of textiles produced worldwide are made from cotton, so this spells out a huge problem, but this is sadly only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the textile industry’s water usage.  The entire production process for clothing relies heavily on water, from the cultivation of raw materials, to the dyeing of fabrics and finishing of garments.

According to Common Objective, ‘the fashion industry currently uses enough water to quench the thirst of 110 million people for an entire year’.  What’s more, it is often the citizens of the countries we rely on most for our garment production who are most affected by these shortages.  Central Asia’s Aral Sea, for example, was once the fourth largest lake in the world, but has shrunk to 10% of its original volume, largely as a result of irrigation for cotton farming.  Other key water sources continue to be used up by the textile industry, resulting in famines, droughts and, therefore, countless deaths at the hands of unnecessary water usage.

Though some companies have started to implement changes to limit their water usage, many refuse to make the changes necessary to ensure a sustainable future for their industry.  Though consumer habits can certainly contribute to the mass change necessary to save countless lives, such a grand scale of change, we believe, must start with these companies taking responsibility and addressing the huge problems in their means of production.  Some changes we can demand these companies to make include:

  • ‘Sourcing sustainably produced cotton via international standards and farming programmes – for example, organic or Fairtrade certification, or the Better Cotton Initiative.

  • Working with production sites that recycle or re-use effluent water from processing.

  • Working with industry partners to reduce and remove water use from dyeing, stone-washing and finishing processes.

  • Providing clear instructions to consumers to reduce the amount of water and energy use’. (Common Objective)

Stay tuned here at and on Instagram @textilerebellion for more on the textile industry’s impact on the world’s water and our upcoming actions!








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