Do you know the [water] cost?

Climate change equals water change

By | 1 minute read | October 25, 2019

A soccer ball. A coffee cup. A plastic toy. All frozen in blocks of ice along a lake in Atlanta, Georgia.

“Everything we use, buy, sell, eat takes water to make,” IBM Global Creative Director Mark Fredo told Industrious.

That’s why, on World Environment Day, he and his team froze everyday items in the amount of water it takes to create them. The ice stunt was part of Forecast: Change, a new IBM-The Weather Channel initiative to help combat freshwater scarcity around the world.

The installation was created specifically to drive awareness—because it’s difficult for people to connect how an individual, local action can impact a global problem, according to Fredo.

“Everything has a water cost,” he said. “When we know the cost of items we use every day—handbags, jeans—then we’re conscious of how we can make ethical choices.”

Know the cost means exactly that:

  • A red cotton t-shirt: 700 gallons of water
  • An eight-ounce steak: 920 gallons of water
  • Espresso, milk and cup for a latte: 126 gallons of water

Meanwhile, more than two billion people around the world lack access to safe water. In the next five years, two-thirds of the world’s population could be living in water-stressed areas, the United Nations estimates.

“As the planet warms,” Fredo said, “we’re seeing a compromised ability of the planet to sustain clean water. Climate change equals water change.”

Forecast: Change includes partnerships with NGO charity:water and The Nature Conservancy.

“IBM is giving away a million dollars in clean water this year,” Fredo said. “$500,000 in cash, $500,000 in kind.”

The ice blocks melted in various stages throughout the day—the plastic dinosaur finally freed from its icy cage. The melted water was filtered and channeled into a drinking water fountain.

Fredo’s team also created a Chrome Browser extension. helps users learn the water cost of their online purchases.

It’s not a war on commerce, he explains, but an understanding of consumption.

“It’s about connecting the dots,” Fredo said. “What’s the one action you can take?”

Photos: JP Lespinasse

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