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 Swivel.com, shows daily indoor per capita water use in the typical single family home in America.
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.