Tuesday, May 02, 2006


How much water do you use in a day? Try this questionnaire to give you an idea.

The Peace Corps website estimates that the average person in the United States uses 150 gallons of water per day, while the average person in Lesotho uses 2.5 gallons per day. I also saw figures as low as 65 gallons for the US. This refers to domestic consumption only (drinking, bathing, cooking, laundry), and doesn't include agricultural and industrial use. Experts estimate that the basic daily requirement of water for domestic purposes (BWR) is about 50 liters, or about 11 gallons. (Read more here.) Sixty-one countries in the world report a domestic per capita use lower than that.

Don't delve too much into this subject if you don't want to find out heartbreaking information. You could explore UNICEF's site on children and water around the world, for example. You'd learn that 42% of the people on this planet don't have access to safe drinking water in their own homes. You'd learn that 1.8 million children die every year from diarrheal illnesses caused by dirty water.

Here are some facts from the Peace Corps website. "Every day over one billion people will make a three-hour journey on foot just to collect water. . . .The average Honduran spends 25% of their income on drinking water. . . .Over 25,000 people die every day from water-related diseases. Worldwide that is over 80,000,000 people in the last 8 years. . . .In the last 8 years, 130 people in the United States have died of water-related disease."

Here's a useful article from the ever-helpful BBC.

Where I live, I am reminded every day of how precious water is. I see young children and women carrying water in buckets and other containers on their heads for long distances. I have running water in my home (mostly collected from rainwater in a concrete cistern, but supplemented with some city water). We try to use it very sparingly. For example, do you really need to flush every time? We don't. Each time you don't flush, you save 3-5 gallons of water, depending on your toilet.

You may not live in a water-stressed area the way I do, but I hope reading some of these facts has encouraged you to think of water a bit differently. It is a precious resource, and if you have it coming out of taps in your home and you don't have to walk a mile to get it, you are privileged. And perhaps you'll consider giving to an organization that is working to provide safe, clean drinking water to some other part of the world.

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