How to Make a Big Impact: Water

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The Daily Drip

Now that we have water usage broken up into two major sections, taking time to explore how everyday consumers relate to the water usage is the next basic step. Although there are more issues surrounding water than just use, the consumer can have the largest impact on this particular issue by simply addressing what’s in front of them. So how much does the average U.S consumer, well, consume?

According to the American Water Works Association (AWWA), “Daily indoor per capita water use in the typical single family home is 69.3 gallons.” The amount can be further broken down into categories of use. For example, more than 21 percent of water use goes towards washing clothes or more than 13 percent of it is wasted with pipe/faucet leaks. The below graph, from, shows daily indoor per capita water use in the typical single family home in America.Graph of Daily Water Usage. Photo:

But what do these numbers really mean? Is that a lot of use, a little or an average rate worldwide? More importantly, does it matter? Isn’t water everywhere? The truth is, water is an abundant resource, but not in the way we might think.

In fact, more than 70 percent of Earth’s surface is covered by water. That’s a lot of water, so what’s the issue? Well, if we look a bit deeper, we start to see that just having water doesn’t mean we have water to use. The Global Change Program at the University of Michigan states:

  • 97.5 percent of all water on Earth is salt water, leaving only 2.5 percent as fresh water.
  • Nearly 70 percent of that fresh water is frozen in the icecaps of Antarctica and Greenland; most of the remainder is present as soil moisture, or lies in deep underground aquifers as groundwater not accessible to human use.
  • Less than 1 percent of the world’s fresh water (~0.007 percent of all water on earth) is accessible for direct human usage. This is the water found in lakes, rivers, reservoirs and those underground sources that are shallow enough to be tapped at an affordable cost. Only this amount is regularly renewed by rain and snowfall, and is therefore available on a sustainable basis.

It’s safe to say our supply is rather small to begin with. Add pollution and drought and you apply some heavy pressure to an already strained system. There are some big changes that need to occur to help alleviate these issues. For example, crop irrigation can waste as much as 60 percent of the water pumped before it even hits the crops. Although these issues need to be modified through regulation and industry overhaul, daily water usage by the consumer can, overtime, have an impact. Whether that impact is positive or negative is up to you.

Continue Reading: What Does Less Look Like?

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  1. Excellent points…as follow-up….

    Just turn the dial on your washer…

    Simply heating the water to wash clothes amounts to 90% of the washing machine’s power consumption. The best way to save money when you are doing the laundry is to wash clothes in cold water. When used with cold-water detergent, washing in cold water is actually better for your clothes. Oily stains that require hot water for removal can be switched from hot to warm still saving energy and doing a good job of cleaning your laundry.

    Green or Greedy?

  2. Great article. My understanding though was that outdoor water usage contributed the most to our wasteful water habits. The article stated that 69.3 gallons is from indoor water usage, but what do we use outside?

    1. Great Question Erica!

      According to the EPA “Outdoor Water Use in the United States”, the average American family of four can use up to 120 gallons of water for outdoor purposes a day!! That is a huge amount and a lot of simple things (proper watering schedules, rain-delay systems and region specific planting) can help cut that down. Check out the EPA link for more info on how to save water outdoors.

  3. Good Info. I would like to know what options we have for getting hot water to a faucet sooner, without wasting about 5 gal of water down the drain( in my case).

    1. Good Idea Bob,

      During my research I came across this – “According to one study, done in Southern California, a typical family of four can save up to 10,000 gallons per year by installing a hot water circulating system. Grundfos, a major manufacturer of hot water circulating systems states on their website that homeowners can save up to 16,000 gallons per year with a circulating system.” –

      I would check out these systems to save water and energy. Good luck!

  4. 26% of the indoor water is being flushed. It may sound weird but I don’t think you need to flush every time you tinkle. If you absolutely have to flush every time, try keeping a gallon pitcher of H2O in the bathroom and use that to flush instead of dumping gallons from the toilet tank. Japanese toilet flush levers swing two ways “small” for urine and “big” for poop; much more efficient.
    There are so many ways to reduce your water consumption, Americans just think they have a never ending supply of everything.

  5. If you are going to replace your faucet aerators with low flow you should consider going even lower than 2.5 gallons per minute flow rates. There are aerators that go as low as .5 gallons per minute. You may need higher flow rates in the kitchen but in the bathroom faucets I would consider going lower than 2.5, it’s a personal preference. Here is a link to some examples you can not buy on the site but it will give you an idea of what to look for at the hardware store.

  6. Pingback: How to Make a Big Impact: Water - | H2O Report

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