Average Daily Water Usage

Water, water everywhere… but not a drop to drink


Tons of freshwater used


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TheWorldCounts, 15 April, 2014

Water, water everywhere… but not a drop to drink

Our planet is 75% covered by water – that’s why we’re called the Blue Planet But 97.5% of that water is salt water. We only have 2.5% of freshwater to drink.

Yet, on a daily basis, we use 10 billion tons of freshwater worldwide.

A lot of organizations and environmentalists are saying that our water supply is dwindling but very few take it seriously. 

Why should they? 

They see water everywhere. But it is a fact that over one billion people in developing countries do not have access to safe drinking water. The USA on the other hand, uses 3.9 trillion gallons of water per month.

According to the World Health Organization, 80% of all diseases in the developing world are water related. By 2025, the United Nation estimates that 30% of the world’s population residing in 50 countries will face water shortage.

Water shortage is a bigger problem today than ever before. Not only are we using up our available supply, our population continues to grow and with it, the demand. Global warming is compounding the problem. Unless we all take it seriously, soon we will have a water crisis in our hands. We will live in a blue planet without a drop of water that’s safe to drink.

What is our average daily water usage?

We use water not just to drink or shower or wash our clothes, we use it through the products we consume too. The average person will need 5 liters of water to drink daily, to survive in a moderate climate with little activity.  An average American uses 100 to 175 gallons of water per day. Globally, we consume around 4  trillion cubic meters of fresh water a year! 

Agriculture alone can consume 75 to 90% of a region’s available freshwater. Did you know that 1 ton of grain requires 1000 tons of water? The steak you eat requires 1,232 gallons. I bet that never crossed your mind…

You “eat” water everyday…

That might sound funny, but it’s true. Our water consumption is not just computed by what we use for domestic consumption, but also by the products that we patronize.

The water used for the production of items we use everyday such as cotton, paper, our clothes, etc., amounts to 167 liters daily. The water consumed to produce our food plays an even bigger part in our consumption – it amounts to 3,496 liters a day per person. These invisible water that we consume without knowing about it, is called Virtual Water. 

For us to understand how we can help minimize water consumption, in a way that would make a significant difference, we need to understand how we use Virtual Water.

What is Virtual Water?

Very few people know about Virtual Water. We hope to make you aware through our site. Virtual water is the amount of water you use that is not visible to you. It is in the products we buy and a larger chunk is in the food we eat. It was conceptualized by Prof. Tony Allan, to give us an idea how much water is needed to keep us comfortable and feed us.

To simplify, let’s look at Beef. Did you know that the juicy steak you love to eat uses up 15,400 liters of water for every 1 kilo? How? Well, the cow needs to eat 1,300 kilograms of grains for 3 years before it can be slaughtered and produce 200 kilos of beef. Those grains require water to grow, the farm and slaughterhouse needs to be cleaned, the cow needs to drink – all of these adds up to 3,091,000 liters of water! All of that water just to make an innocent looking but delicious steak.

1 kilo of chocolate requires 24,000 liters of water.1 piece of paper needs 10 liters. Unbelievable, right? No one ever thinks about this.

What can you do?

You have the power to reduce the use of virtual water. Conserving the water you use is one way of helping, but watching your shopping basket will make more impact to the effort. Farmers and our advancing technology have devised ways to get more crops with less water. But these efforts are useless if we are not concerned about the amount of virtual water we use through the products we buy.

A meat eating person can consume up to 5000 liters per day. It would help if we cut down on eating meat such as beef and eat more grains, fruits and vegetables. If you have to buy meat, choose those that are grass grown. It is interesting to note that the foods recommended by nutritionists such as vegetables and fruit uses less water to produce than those they are asking to remove from your diet.

If we can be conscious of the products we buy and eat and choose less water intensive products we can make a difference. If manufacturers know that the consumers care, they might make some efforts to reduce their water usage during production. If the USA for example, reduced their meat intake by half, their annual water costs will be reduced by 256 cubic kilometers! How much is that? That’s like filling the empire state building with water 28 times every hour. That’s a big saving.

Increase your awareness on what products are water intensive and not. This can go a long way to ensuring that everyone in our planet will have their share. Every drop you save is precious.


  1. The Water Information Program: Water Facts
  2. The World Water Organization: Water Facts and Water Stories from Across the Globe
  3. Global Change: Human Appropriation of the World’s Water Supply
  4. GHD: Thinking About Virtual Water
  5. Wikipedia: Water Use

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