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Two Harvard Design Students Won an Award for This Amazing Water Visualization

Spend 15 minutes playing with and learning from the most incredible water-focused data visualization you've ever seen.

Here's some more info about the fantastic "What Is Your Water Footprint" visualization by Joseph Bergen and Nickie Huang, both students at the Harvard Graduate School of Design. They are the winners of the design contest, Visualizing Urban Water Challenge.

Of the contest, Maywa Montenegro of writes:

In anticipation of "World Water Day 2011", we recently joined forces with the folks at Circle of Blue to shine a spotlight on these challenging urban water issues. We invited the design community to visualize urban water data, and help us draw connections and insights from across the spectrum of health, economic, environmental, and policy perspectives.

The winning visualization had a couple of components. First, the cartographic screen invites users to scroll over different countries and compare the details like:

  • water supply
  • water usage
  • total and urban population
  • water available per person
  • population without access to water

If you click over to the product profile page, you can hover over different goods and learn the water volume "embedded" in each. You can check the water footprint of beer, juice, a laptop, beef, bread, eggs, a T-shirt, and so on. Here's a cup of coffee compared to a cup of tea, for instance:

This is how the organizers describe their tool:

How much water do you consume based on where you are from? How much water do you consume based on what food, beverages, and products you purchase? This data visualization reveals the hidden water content in your nationality and your consumer goods. Label your lunch, your drink, your friends, yourself, even the whole world with its water footprint.

  1. Explore - Move your mouse around the map to see the wide range of water information.
  2. Compare - Click on a country or item to keep its data in the tray as you continue to explore other countries and items.
  3. Label - Click on the 'Print Label' button to bring up a simple label that shows exactly how much water your selection uses.

Go to to read the whole winning announcement, and to see the runners-up, both of which are awfully cool as well. And then set aside a good 15 minutes at least to play around with Bergen and Huang's fantastic project.

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