Water – fast facts and consumption levels

I’ve been giving the topic of water more consideration than I usually do as I’ll start heading back into the outback shortly. Where I’m heading, the dams are all dry; some for the first time in over 25 years. I’ll have to be careful with every drop and based on previous experiences, I think I’ll be able to keep consumption down to around 10 litres a day (bit under 2.5 gallons) while I’m out there without going totally feral :). That figure doesn’t include clothes washing.

Have you ever been thirsty? I mean really thirsty? It’s an incredible experience having every fiber of your being screaming for water; and dehydration can set in so quickly. We need to consume 4 to 6 litres (A gallon to a gallon and a half) of water a day; including the content in our food.

While humans can go for over a month without food, deprive us of water and we’re dead within a few days; yet we take it so much for granted.

Here’s a few fast facts about water on our planet and how we consume it.

  • Almost 70 per cent of all  fresh water is used for agriculture.
  • Overpumping of groundwater exceeds natural replenishment rates by at least 160 billion cubic metres a year
  • 1,000 to 3,000 litres of water is needed to produced just one kilo of rice 
  • A corn field of one acre gives off 4,000 gallons of water per day in evaporation 
  • The production of one pound of beef requires over 2000 gallons of water
  • Around 75 percent of the earth’s surface is covered with water, but only 3% of that is fresh water
  • Over 90% of the world’s fresh water supplies are located in Antarctica.
  • Around 6,800 gallons of water is needed to grow a day’s worth of food for a family of four.
  • Freshwater animals are becoming extinct five times faster than land animals.
  • If one-thousandth (or more) of the weight of water is salt, the water is considered “saline.”
  • A gallon of gas can contaminate 750,000 gallons of water
  • Most of the world’s population must walk at least 3 hours to fetch water.

This figure from the UN really pushes the point home – one full standard toilet flush in the developed world uses as much water at the average person in the developing world uses in a day; for everything.

Country consumption

The following figures refer to direct consumption – they don’t include the water used to grow the food we eat and create the products we buy, which can involve enormous amounts. For example, over 39,000 gallons of water is required to build a car.

– The United States uses about 346,000 million gallons of fresh water every day. The average person in the United States uses anywhere from 100-150 gallons of water per day and much of this consumption is from just flushing the toilet.

– People in the UK use on average 40 gallons of water a day. Seems there’s much to be said for what we call in this country the “pommie wash”.

– Australians, who live in the driest inhabited continent, use a staggering 117 gallons per day.

– I had some trouble finding figures on Canada, but it seems to be around 178 gallons of water per person per day.

Isn’t it amazing that we use so much more water than we need to survive? While the amount of water on the planet will never change, the form it’s in will. Our freshwater reserves are becoming increasingly contaminated with salt and other chemicals, requiring more energy and resources to bring it back to a potable state – and that’s of no comfort to the animal and plant species who have to cope with their water supplies fouled.

Imagine how much water we could save by shaving just a few gallons here and there off our own daily water consumption; and if millions of others did the same. This is something we can all do

Pick up some simple water saving tips