Image Via National Geographic “7 Billion”

For the majority of the world, getting access to clean drinking water is hard. It is both time-consuming and risky. So what do we know about drinking water and sanitation on a global scale. It’s easy for us in western countries, our taps are flowing with clean water ready to drink. We live in a watery world, with the average American/ Australia lifestyle is fueled by nearly 2,000 gallons (7000 litres) of H2O a day. What may come as a surprise is that very little of that—only five percent—runs through toilets, taps, and garden hoses at home. Nearly 95 percent of your water footprint is hidden in the food you eat, energy you use, products you buy, and services you rely on.

Here are some statistics worth knowing about water on a global scale:

  • On average, women in developing countries walk 3.7 miles (6 Kilometers) a day to get clean drinking water
  • Italy consumes more bottled water than any other nation on earth. Averaging around 185 litres of bottled water per person. The united states sits at just over 100 litres with Mexico coming in second with 165 litres.
  • Clean drinking water can come from various sources. The main sources being surface water, ground water and desalination. Depending on where you live, your water is drawn from any of these sources.
  • A staggering 1 in 8 people do not have access to clean drinking water. That is close to 900 million people. According to the world health organisation, close to 36% of people living in Africa do not have access to safe drinking water with 40% without adequate sanitation.
  • Every day, 4800 people die from water borne diseases. According to the US Centres for Disease control, most water born disease causes bowel illness, which is the second largest killer of children in the world. Water is contaminated by various reasons. The most common is waste from farms and factories and there is growing concern over the medicines and toiletries are having on our water quality.
  • The most effective methods of sanitizing water is boiling it, you can even put it into a PET bottle and sit it in the direct sun light or use chlorine tablets. There are several known methods for making water safe for drinking. Dirty water, and lack of hygiene, kills 3.3 million people a year, the majority of those children.
  • Everyday, around the world, 14,500 desalination plants give 60 billion litres of water a day servicing 300 million people. The water is extracted from the ocean or brackish groundwater that is too salty to drink. Desalination makes it drinkable.
  • The pacific institute predicts that to produce a 1 litre bottle of water, it actually takes 3 litres of water to produce it.
  • A staggering 46% of people around the world do not have water piped to their homes. They rely on wells, communal spigots, water trucks, lakes and of course dirty rivers. Charities such as Charity:Water play a large role in solving this problem.
  • Only 2.5% of the world’s water is fresh and of that 2.5%, 2/3rd is frozen. That leaves less than 1% to grow our crops, cool our power plants and to supply drinking and bathing water to our homes.
  • Farming and ranching now accounts for 64% of all water usage across the planet. Irrigation grows 40% of the world’s food and makes it possible to feed the planets “almost 7 billion people”.
  • The average American and Australian uses 380 litres of water a day, more than 15 times that used by people in developing countries. Millions of the worlds poorest people live on less than 20 litres a day.
  • China owns around 22,000 large-scale dams. That is just under half of the worlds estimated 45,000 dams. Theses 45,000 dams catch 14% of all precipitation run off , provide water to up to 40% of irrigated land and give 65 countries more than half of their electricity needs. The costs of running these dams is enormous, in both financial costs and displacement of communities.
  • It actually takes a whopping 2900 gallons to produce 1 pair of denim jeans. A water intensive crop, cotton is also heavily fertilised!

The amount of moisture on Earth has not changed. The water the dinosaurs drank millions of years ago is the same water that falls as rain today. But will there be enough for a more crowded world? We know the average American and Australian lifestyle is kept afloat by  twice the global average. The bright side is, by pledging to cut your water footprint, you can help return more water to rivers, lakes, wetlands, underground aquifers, and freshwater species.

Ready for the challenge? Nat Geo can help: Here: 

To help reduce your footprint, National Geographic have also provided a list of tips below:

Toilets, Taps, Showers, Laundry, and Dishes

  • On average, 10 gallons per day of your water footprint (or 14% of your indoor use) is lost to leaks. Short of installing new water-efficient fixtures, one of the easiest, most effective ways to cut your footprint is by repairing leaky faucets and toilets.
  • If you use a low-flow shower head, you can save 15 gallons of water during a 10-minute shower.
  • Every time you shave minutes off your use of hot water, you also save energy and keep dollars in your pocket.
  • It takes about 70 gallons of water to fill a bathtub, so showers are generally the more water-efficient way to bathe.
  • All of those flushes can add up to nearly 20 gallons a day down the toilet. If you still have a standard toilet, which uses close to 3.5 gallons a flush, you can save by retrofitting or filling your tank with something that will displace some of that water, such as a brick.
  • Most front-loading machines are energy and water-efficient, using just over 20 gallons a load, while most top-loading machines, unless they are energy-efficient, use 40 gallons per load.
  • Nearly 22% of indoor home water use comes from doing laundry. Save water by making sure to adjust the settings on your machine to the proper load size.
  • Dishwashing is a relatively small part of your water footprint—less than 2% of indoor use—but there are always ways to conserve. Using a machine is actually more water efficient than hand washing, especially if you run full loads.
  • Energy Star dishwashers use about 4 gallons of water per load, and even standard machines use only about 6 gallons. Hand washing generally uses about 20 gallons of water each time.

Yards and Pools

  • Nearly 60% of a person’s household water footprint can go toward lawn and garden maintenance.
  • Climate counts—where you live plays a role in how much water you use, especially when it comes to tending to a yard.
  • The average pool takes 22,000 gallons of water to fill, and if you don’t cover it, hundreds of gallons of water per month can be lost due to evaporation.

Diet

  • The water it takes to produce the average American diet alone—approximately 1,000 gallons per person per day—is more than the global average water footprint of 900 gallons per person per day for diet, household use, transportation, energy, and the consumption of material goods.
  • That quarter pounder is worth more than 30 average American showers. One of the easiest ways to slim your water footprint is to eat less meat and dairy. Another way is to choose grass-fed, and not grain-fed, since it can take a lot of water to grow corn and other feed crops.
  • A serving of poultry costs about 90 gallons of water to produce. There are also water costs embedded in the transportation of food (gasoline costs water to make). So, consider how far your food has to travel, and buy local to cut your water footprint.
  • Pork costs water to produce, and traditional pork production—to make your sausage, bacon, and chops—has also been the cause of some water pollution, as pig waste runs into local water sources.
  • On average, a vegan, a person who doesn’t eat meat or dairy, indirectly consumes nearly 600 gallons of water per day less than a person who eats the average American diet.
  • A cup of coffee takes 55 gallons of water to make, with most of that H2O used to grow the coffee beans.

Electricity, Fuel Economy, and Airline Travel

  • The water footprint of your per-day electricity use is based on state averages. If you use alternative energies such as wind and solar, your footprint could be less. (The use of biofuels, however, if they are heavily irrigated, could be another story.) You would also get points, or a footprint reduction, for using energy-star appliances and taking other energy-efficiency measures.
  • Washing a car uses about 150 gallons of water, so by washing less often you can cut back your water use.
  • A gallon of gasoline takes nearly 13 gallons of water to produce. Combine your errands, car pool to work, or take public transportation to cut both your energy and water use.
  • Flying from Los Angeles to San Francisco, about 700 miles round-trip, could cost you more than 9,000 gallons of water, or enough for almost 2,000 average dishwasher loads.
  • A cross-country airplane trip (about 6,000 miles) could be worth more than 1,700 standard toilet flushes.
  • Traveling from Chicago to Istanbul is just about 10,000 miles round trip, costing enough water to run electricity in the average American home for one person for more than five years.

Industry—Apparel, Home Furnishings, Electronics, and Paper

  • According to recent reports, nearly 5% of all U.S. water withdrawals are used to fuel industry and the production of many of the material goods we stock up on weekly, monthly, and yearly.
  • It takes about 100 gallons of water to grow and process a single pound of cotton, and the average American goes through about 35 pounds of new cotton material each year. Do you really need that extra T-shirt?
  • One of the best ways to conserve water is to buy recycled goods, and to recycle your stuff when you’re done with it. Or, stick to buying only what you really need.
  • The water required to create your laptop could wash nearly 70 loads of laundry in a standard machine.
  • Recycling a pound of paper, less than the weight of your average newspaper, saves about 3.5 gallons of water. Buying recycled paper products saves water too, as it takes about six gallons of water to produce a dollar worth of paper.

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