Deep dive into our water footprint

People use over 70 times more water than they think they do

When we think about what we can do to reduce our water usage, things like taking shorter showers come to mind. This is also known as direct water use. However, direct water makes up less than 5% of our water usage at the festival and campsite. The other 95% of our water usage is indirect or virtual, meaning that this water is needed to produce the products or services we consume.

So if we want to reduce our use of water, we should find ways to change our current consumption patterns into ones that require (much) less water.

Water is the gold of the future
Ahh, that feeling of hot water on your skin to wake up or relax your body and mind. You might even take a sip of it whilst in the shower.

Yet shortages of clean water are a growing issue. Clean water is a necessity that is becoming increasingly scarce. As the population grows, so does our use of water.

We’re not only using more water because there are more of us using water; we’re also very used to using purified water, for all kinds of things.

In times of seasonal droughts, for example, governments urge us not to water our gardens. It’s an indication that even Northern Europe is sometimes faced with shortages of purified water.

This is twofold: low rainfall figures mean less water to purify, but it also shows how accustomed we are to using purified water for things that don’t require it.

In a nutshell, purified water’s higher footprint combined with growing water shortages is why we should make a joint effort to reduce our use of purified water.

Blue water; it’s not what you think it is

CO2 emissions play a huge role in climate change, that’s plain to see.  But how does using fresh water affect the environment?

When it comes to water usage, there are three categories. So-called ‘green water’ usage means using the water that falls down in the form of rain and snow. Think of collecting and storing rainwater and using it to shower, for example. Then there is ‘grey water’ usage, a way of recycling water that would have gone to waste otherwise. Think of using the wastewater of your shower to flush your toilet. Last but not least is ‘blue water’ usage, referring to purified water. It requires a relatively large amount of energy and chemicals to turn green or grey water into blue water.

That’s why purified blue water has a higher environmental footprint, which we should try to reduce as much as possible.

Curious about Tomorrowland’s water footprint?

Mahatma Gandhi said: “If you want to change the world, start with yourself.” That’s why Love Tomorrow teamed up with the water experts from BOSAQ to help calculate Tomorrowland’s own water footprint.

We informed BOSAQ’s water consultants not only about how many hamburgers, TML by Tomorrowland flags and plastic cups circled our Holy Ground in 2019, but also about how many trucks we needed to collect our waste and how much power was used to bring the stages and site alive. With that information, BOSAQ estimated the total water footprint of Tomorrowland 2019.

BOSAQ gave us more interesting data on the relative direct water footprints of three segments: the festival site itself, DreamVille and the hotels. It turns out that DreamVille, where 37.500 people shower, use the restrooms and brush their teeth every day, is responsible for 49% of our total direct water usage. Hotels cover 43% and the remaining 8% is consumed and used on the actual festival grounds.

DreamVille is the major consumer of direct water

It comes as no surprise that a gathering the size of Tomorrowland has a large water footprint. The good news is that not only do we want to decrease it, we actually can.

Low hanging fruit to reduce our indirect water footprint

By taking relatively simple measures in our Food & Beverage, Fashion, Production and other departments, we can reduce our indirect water usage. Discover some of the initiatives we’ve embarked upon and are very passionate about

Our Tomorrowland burger

Who would have thought? It takes over 2.456 litres of fresh water to produce a hamburger. Where does all that water go, you’re wondering? Water is needed to grow wheat and produce the bun, to grow and transport the tomato and lettuce, and last but not least; to produce the meat that goes into the burger. The latter causes the largest part of a hamburger’s water footprint.

The water footprint of hamburger meat can be further broken down into water used to irrigate the cereals that are needed to feed the cow; water that the cow drinks; and water that is needed to process the meat. A simple but impactful alternative? Replacing meat with a plant-based alternative does the trick. While a bun with only lettuce and condiments doesn’t tickle our pickle, adding that pickle to an occasional veggie burger instead sound fingerlicking good.

Our Tomorrowland flag

Our pride and joy, the one item that connects the People of Tomorrow worldwide and that turns Boom if not the whole of Belgium into our hometown every year again; the Tomorrowland flag.

But however much we love their presence, considerable amounts of water go into the production of the flags. The Tomorrowland flags are currently made of polyester, which is produced needing petroleum, coal  and a lot of water; 10.500 litres in total, to be precise.

Though that sounds like a lot of water, polyester actually requires 35% less water than the production of cotton. Still we believed there was room for improvement. As most synthetic fibres are not biodegradable, we have started up developments to use our recycled PET from the 2019 festival edition to produce the flags. That way, our joint love for our flagship will keep on waving.

Influencing behavior through smart water usage in our living lab

Functioning as a small village on its own, DreamVille was the ideal location for our living lab Waterville. In association with the University of Antwerp and the Flemish Institute for Technological Research (VITO), Love Tomorrow made use of smart meters to measure the amount of water for individual use. DreamVille guests were immersed in the experiment through engaging interactive installations, on-site signage and through prompted reflections on their direct water usage by taking part in a survey. The results gave us useful insights into collective and individual water consumption, which we can use to improve our water logistics.

At the Water Bar, our partner BOSAQ used renewable energy and high-end membrane technology to show that the “dirty” water from the local river Rupel could be transformed into drinkable water within minutes. The Water Bar was a positive and fun way of showing the People of Tomorrow that clean drinking water can be produced right on the spot, with no single-use plastic involved!

Living lab experiments like the Water Bar and Waterville on our DreamVille breeding ground help gain insight into and improve Tomorrowland’s water footprint. We also believe they create a positive ripple effect, a name that fits so aptly when it comes to positively influencing behavior.     By actively involving the People of Tomorrow, they’re immersed in an unforgettable sustainable experience, and become more mindful of their individual water usage.

Ambitious about tomorrow

Thanks to BOSAQ’s analysis, we now have data about our direct and indirect water usage, helping us make informed decisions and set ambitious goals. By 2027, we aim to bring down our water footprint by 35%.

Though ambitious, the goal is feasible if we make a joint effort; lots of smaller and bigger measures across the organisation will amount to an impressive reduction of our water footprint.

We believe that awareness is key to reducing our water footprint, which is why we welcome you to share any ideas that may enhance it. Over the years, there have already been numerous conscious efforts on all levels of Tomorrowland to do better. But we’re ready to go the extra mile, together as a team as well as with our ever-expanding international community. We love interactive ways of positively influencing behavior and helping the planet step-by-step, together.

If the above inspired you in any way, and if you’re looking to make steps in upping sustainability; talk to your Love Tomorrow motivators! We’d be more than happy to help and advise you wherever we can.

Let’s team up to make positive impact.