We use water for everything. From bathing and showering, to washing our clothes and dishes, to making our favorite pasta or cup of coffee.
Water is a natural, major part of our daily life. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), “the average American family uses more than 300 gallons of water per day at home.” But how do those numbers break down across the United States, how much demand do environmental factors create, and how much access to clean water will we have in the future? Let’s dive in.
Residential Water Usage in the U.S., by the Numbers
The Water Research Foundation conducted a survey around average household water usage across the U.S. The report found that 24 percent of that daily household water usage is from the toilet, 20 percent is from the shower, 19 percent is from the faucet, 17 percent is from the washing machine, 8 percent is for “other”, and a whopping 12 percent of that is from water leakage. That might actually be a spill worth crying over.
What’s more, is that your household water is also directly correlated to how many people live in your given area. States that have experienced the most population growth over the last decade are also some of the states that are using the most water. For example, Utah has grown 33% from 2000 to 2015, and their average water usage per person is 151-200 gallons per day. Same with Idaho, which has grown 27% from 2000 to 2015 and has an average water usage per person of 151-200 gallons per day.
Residents in other growing states such as Texas and Florida are seeing a similar correlation between their increasing population and rising average water usage per person, which tends to be around 76-100 gallons daily. But factors ranging from population growth to climate change can dramatically affect your relationship with the water in your home in very literal ways.
According to the EPA, here are how many gallons the average American uses in each room, per day:
- Toilet – 18.5 gallons per person, per day
- Washing Machine – 15 gallons per person, per day
- Shower – 11.6 gallons per person, per day
- Faucet – 10.9 gallons per person, per day
- Dishwasher – 1 gallon per person, per day
But all of this can change depending on how many people you have in your household, how many square feet your house is, as well as environmental factors surrounding your home.
Environmental Factors Increase Water Usage, Lowers Pressure
While our world is 75 percent covered with water, only 2.5 percent of that is drinkable. According to estimates from the United Nations, 30 percent of the world’s population in 50 countries will face regular water shortages by 2025.
But many environmental factors are bound to affect access to clean drinking water, starting with drought.
Drought means less water in your local reservoirs, which means less water flowing from your tap. As we’ve previously discussed, thanks to the effects of drought, more than 850 million people worldwide lack access to safe, clean drinking water. But this problem isn’t just outside of the United States. According to the National Resources Defense Council (NRDC), “In the United States, drought is the second-most costly form of natural disaster (behind hurricanes), exacting an average toll of $9.6 billion in damage and loss per event.” Additionally, reports have estimated that between 1960 and 2010, the natural consumption of water, specifically from humans, “increased the frequency of drought by 25 percent”.
But drought isn’t the only environmental factor affecting our water usage in the United States and beyond.
Aging Infrastructure —
Our aging infrastructure can also act as a detriment to accessing constantly flowing, clean water. Pipes lined with lead are still a prevalent issue, and older pipes that are corroded or clogged with sediment can also mean you get less water through your faucet at a slower flow rate. According to the NRDC, “faulty meters, crumbling pipes, leaky water mains—cost the United States an estimated 2.1 trillion gallons in lost drinkable water each year.”
According to the NRDC, “faulty meters, crumbling pipes, leaky water mains—cost the United States an estimated 2.1 trillion gallons in lost drinkable water each year.”
Water pressure in your home can be affected by even more than that, on an individual level. For example, a leak in your pipe isn’t just an added expense to your monthly utility costs, it also lowers your water pressure, as the water escapes through cracks in your pipe instead of going to your faucet. This inhibits water usage on an individual level, and if you’re using well water, on a communal level.
The basic rules of gravity say what goes up, must come down. Gravity keeps your water flowing from tap to drain. As a result, how high your home sits, in relation to your water line, can also affect how much water pressure you have in your home. This results in higher or lower water usage on any given day.
Water Usage: Will We Ever Run Out?
So that brings us to a question that won’t just affect the United States as a whole, but all of us individually as well: will we ever run out of water?
The answer is more complicated than “yes” or “no”. For starters, the biggest consumer of water is not one individual person, but the agricultural industry, using 70 percent of clean drinking water across the globe. This makes sense, given animals also need to drink in order to stay alive.
So while the answer is technically no, we are not running out of water as a whole—we are running out of access to clean, drinking water. According to a report from The Guardian, “about one in nine of the planet’s population – lack access to clean, affordable water within half an hour of their homes”.
Things like climate change and population expansion certainly aren’t helping. With the onslaught of more frequent droughts, fires, and storms, as well as rapid population growth—the ability to get clean drinking water is getting harder by the minute. To make matters worse, researchers at NASA found that 21 out of 37 of the world’s largest aquifers are being depleted lower than their sustainability tipping points. This means that we’re using water from these aquifers faster than we are replenishing them.
A recent report from Reuters confirms this isn’t just happening the world over, but in our own backyard, too. “As many as 96 water basins out of the 204 supplying most of the country with freshwater could fail to meet monthly demand starting in 2071…”
So what can you do? A few things can certainly help on the individual level: going vegetarian 2-3 times a week is recommended. Learning about the impacts of climate change and what we can do to lessen our carbon footprint can help, too. More than anything, investing in a water filtration system will help ensure that you can access clean, drinking water, no matter what. If you invest in a filter bottle, for every one of our cartridges you use, you save 600 disposable water bottles from entering the environment. We can cheer to that.