Sunday, November 28, 2010

How much water does the average person use?

Why do we care how much water the average person in the United States uses? Isn’t there plenty of water for everyone? 

Well, depending on where you live, there may or may not be plenty of water.  In the United States we take running water for granted, but if you live in a third world country, you might spend a good part of your day retrieving water and boiling water to survive.  Since the water we use today is the same water that the dinosaurs, Christopher Columbus, and Abe Lincoln drank and used for daily living we need to be sure that water resources are conserved, used wisely, and shared equitably.   

Although 75% of the Earth’s surface is comprised of water, 97% of that water is saltwater, 2% is frozen, and only 1% is usable freshwater.   Kids in elementary school learn at an early age about the three phases of water and the water cycle, how water from the dinosaurs is recycled, and how water is vital to life on Earth.  They learn how we all live the Water Cycle on a daily basis, and why water is such a precious resource.  

Most Americans are very familiar with one part of the Water Cycle, precipitation, and tune in daily for the weather, specifically rain, sleet, hail, or snow.  American students learn about other parts of the Water Cycle as well.  They learn that the sun evaporates water from lakes and oceans (liquid water turns into water vapor), and about condensation of water vapor into tiny water droplets within the clouds.  Students learn that water is stored in glaciers, snow, ponds, lakes, rivers, and oceans.  Later they may learn the importance of natural filtration and storage of water in wetlands and marshes, and how it percolates into underground storage called aquifers that are pumped for drinking water and other uses. 

Luckily, the water cycle never stops; it keeps on going making life on Earth possible.  Unfortunately, some countries such as the United States use more of the limited freshwater resources, and have a water footprint that is double the global average water footprint.  According to,

“A country's water footprint, as opposed to simple water use, is the total amount of H2O needed for the production of goods and services. Figuring out a country's water footprint means adding all the water used plus the water inherent in products imported, then minus the water in exports. Using this top-down method, the average water footprint in the world is 1,243 cubic meters a year. As you already might have guessed, in the U.S. we are water hogs - we use more than twice the world average, or 2,500 cubic meters. That's equivalent to an Olympic-sized swimming pool for each and every one of us, or 2.5 million liters each. The Chinese, to compare, use 700 cubic meters annually.

The top five biggest average daily users of water are the U.S., Australia, Italy, Japan, and Mexico - all five of these use well over 300 liters daily (about 79.25 US gallons). The countries where water poverty is the worst and water usage is the lowest are Mozambique, Rwanda, Haiti, Ethiopia, and Uganda - these five use 15 liters (3.96 gallons) or less daily.”

So in answer to the question, "How much water does the average American use?", the answer ranges from about 80-100 gallons per day!  Surprisingly, the largest amount of water used daily is flushed down the toilet, with most toilets using about 5 gallons of water per flush!  Luckily you can reduce the water you use for flushing with simple devices such as the Dual Flusher (read more at and  Showering, uses between 25-35 gallons (depending on length of shower, and whether you have a new low flow shower-head or not), the dishwasher about 9-15 gallons, and washing clothes in a washing machine accounts for about 15 gallons.  In addition, we use water throughout the day to wash hands, brush teeth, and for other miscellaneous uses (not including outdoor water uses).  

So Americans need to think about how important the Water Cycle is to life on Earth, and be sure to conserve water resources whenever possible.   Keep reminding yourself and your  teens to take shorter showers, teach your children to turn off the faucet while brushing teeth, switch to low flow shower-heads and toilet flushing systems, and when replacing old appliances, buy Energy Star dishwashers and washing machines which are more water and energy efficient than older models.  Lastly, think before wasting precious water, life on Earth isn't possible without it..    
Sources:, 11/28/2010, 11/28/2010

No comments:

Post a Comment