Nearly three-quarters of the earth’s surface is covered with water, a stunning 326 million cubic miles of water. Yet only three-tenths of one percent of the earth’s water can be used by humans. The Seven Seas might dominate the globe, but this usable water is only found in groundwater aquifers, rivers, and freshwater lakes.
For most people living in the United States and other developed nations, water is taken for granted. Turn on the tap in your kitchen or bathroom, find one of the many water fountains in a public space, and there it is. But most of the world's people must walk at least three hours to fetch water! And at least 400 million people now live in regions with severe water shortages.
The United States uses about 346,000 million gallons of fresh water every day. The recommended personal daily intake of eight cups a day – a luxury in the developing world – is just a small part of our total consumption. The average person in the U.S. will use anywhere from 80-100 gallons per day. Most of it is the result of flushing toilets!
Overall, the vast majority of water consumption, about 80%, is used for irrigation and thermoelectric power. In addition, larger quantities than you might expect are used to produce everyday items. For example, it takes:
- 39,000 gallons of water to manufacturer just one new car
- 1,850 gallons of water to refine one barrel of crude oil
- 1500 gallons of water to process one 31-gallon barrel of beer
- 11. 6 gallons of water to process one chicken
- 9.3 gallons of water to process one can of fruit or vegetables