How Much Clean Water is Available for Human Use?

Published on April 1st, 2010 | by

We know that the world is covered in water. Continents are like large islands in the planet’s much more expansive oceans. 75% of the Earth is covered in water. Yet access to clean, fresh drinking water is a major world concern. An infograph I ran across on world water day helps to show, in a simple format, why this is the case.

Image Credit: M Kuhn elephant water use
How much water is available for human use?

First though, via planet green, here are some interesting water use numbers to chew on:

  • 2.5 gallons: The amount of water per person much of the world is allocated.
  • 400 gallons: The amount of water per person used by the average American citizen; 30 percent of this is used for outdoor purposes, such as watering the lawn.
  • 70 percent: The amount of worldwide water use that is allocated to farming; most of these farming irrigation systems operate at only 40 percent efficiency. According to a 2002 article by Lester Brown, aquifers are depleting all over the world—in China by 2-3 metres per year. In the US, the Ogallala aquifer is shrinking rapidly. In India, aquifers are going down by 3 metres per year, in Mexico by 3.3 meters per year.
  • 263: The number of rivers that either cross or demarcate international political boundaries, in addition to countless aquifers. According to the Atlas of International Freshwater Agreement, 90 percent of countries in the world must share these water basins with at least one or two other states. Major conflicts such as Darfur have been connected to water shortages, and lack of access to clean water.
  • 1430: Gallons of water per capita in the United States; only 100 gallons of that is household use per person as most is used for agriculture, according to water expert Peter Gleick.
  • 88 percent: Of deaths from diarrhea are caused from unsafe drinking water, inadequate availability of water for hygiene, and lack of access to sanitation; this translates to more than 1.5 million of the 1.9 million children under five who perish from diarrhea each year. This amounts to 18% of all under-five deaths and means that more than 4,000 children are dying every day as a result of diarrhoeal diseases.
  • $11.3 billion: The amount of money required to provide basic levels of service for drinking and waste water in Africa and Asia.
  • $35 billion: the amount of money spent on bottled water in the most developed countries in the world.
  • 1.5 million: Barrels of crude oil used for making PET water bottles, globally. This is enough oil to fuel 100,000 American cars for a year.
  • 2.7 tons: The amount of plastic used to bottle water. 86 percent become garbage or litter.
  • And now, here is a simple breakdown of where all the world’s water is.

    water infograph

    via TreeHugger

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