Water Facts and Statistics

Water Use

People living in the slums often pay 5-10 times more per liter of water than wealthy people living in the same city.

• Water use has been growing at more than the rate twice of population increase in the last century.

An American taking a five-minute shower uses more water than a typical person in a developing country uses in a whole day.

• The world’s six billion people are appropriating 54% of all the accessible freshwater contained in rivers, lakes and underground aquifers.

How the world uses freshwater:    about 70 percent for irrigation
                                                             about 22 percent for industry
                                                             about 8 percent for domestic use

• Global water consumption is expected to increase by 40% over the next 20 years.

• 11% of the world’s population does not have access to safe water.

• 35% of the world’s population does not have access to adequate sanitation.

Every second, the urban population grows by 2 people.
27% of the urban population in the developing world does not have piped water in its house.
A lack of safe water and sanitation in cities leads to cholera, malaria and diarrhea.

• The UN suggests that each person needs 20-50 liters of safe freshwater a day to ensure their basic needs for drinking, cooking and cleaning. More than one in six people worldwide don’t have access to this amount of safe freshwater.

• The weight of water that women in Africa and Asia carry on their heads is commonly 40 pounds.

• 97.5% of the earth’s water is saltwater. If the world’s water fit into a bucket, only one teaspoonful would be drinkable.

• The average North American uses 400 liters of water every day.

• The average person in the developing world uses 10 liters of water every day for their drinking, washing and cooking.

• Water withdrawals are predicted to increase by 50 percent in 2025 in developing countries, and 18 per cent in developed countries.

• Over 1.4 billion people currently live in river basins where the use of water exceeds minimum recharge levels, leading to the desiccation of rivers and depletion of groundwater.

• In 60 percent of European cities with more than 100,000 people, groundwater is being used at a faster rate than it can be replenished.

• Half the world’s rivers and lakes are seriously polluted.

Number of people displaced by dams: 40-80 million

Water Sanitation

• The water and sanitation crisis claims more lives through disease than any war claims through guns.

More people have a mobile than a toilet.

• 1.4 million children die every year from diseases caused by unclean water and poor sanitation.

• In the developing world as a whole, around 90% of sewage is discharged untreated into rivers, polluting them and affecting plan and aquatic life.

In History

• South Korea made huge investments in water and sanitation during the 1960s, when its per capita income was the same as Ghana’s, and during this decade, under-five mortality more than halved, while the number of medical staff stayed virtually the same.

• In the UK the expansion of water and sanitation infrastructure in the 1880’s contributed to a 15 year increase in life expectancy in the following four decades.

Water for Agriculture and Food Sources

• It takes 35 gallons of water to make one cup of coffee because of the water used to cultivate coffee beans.

• 635 gallons to make one hamburger because of the water required to grow feed for the cows.

• The average amount of water needed to produce one kilogram of potatoes is 1000 liters, wheat is 1450 liters and rice is 3450 liters.

• The daily drinking water requirement per person is 2-4 litres, but it takes 2,000 to 5,000 litres of water to produce one person’s daily food.

• The extent of land under irrigation in the works is about 20% of all cropland. Rainfed agriculture is practiced on the remaining 80 percent of arable land.

• Due to climate change, Himalayan snow and ice, which provide vast amounts of water for agriculture in Asia, are expected to decline by 20% by 2030.

• Irrigation increases yields of most crops by 100 to 400% and irrigated agriculture currently contributes to 40 percent of the world’s food production.

• Percent of world’s food grown on rain-fed lands: 60-70%

• Annual cost of bringing 100 million small farming families out of extreme poverty by 2015 with low-cost water technologies: $2 billion.

Climate Change

• There is evidence that the global climate is changing.

Water is the primary medium through which climate change
impacts the earth’s ecosystem and people.

• Climate change is the fundamental driver of change in the world’s water resources.

• Collecting water is expected to become increasingly burdensome with global warming. More regions will experience water shortages, as rainfall becomes erratic, glaciers melt and seas rise. People living within 60 miles of a shoreline - a full third of the world’s population - will be hit especially hard, as they are most susceptible to increased salinity of coastal potable water sources.

• Climate change is predicted to have a whole range of impacts on water resources. Variation in temperature and rainfall may affect water availability, increase the frequency and severity of floods and droughts, and disrupt ecosystems that maintain water quality.

Water Pollution

• Every day, 2 million tons of human waste are disposed of in water courses.

• In developing countries, 70% of industrial wastes are dumped untreated into waters where they pollute the usable water supply.

• Half of the world’s wetlands have been lost since 1900.

• Projected increases in fertilizer use for food production and in wastewater effluents over the next three decades suggest there will be a 10-20% global increase in river nitrogen flows to coastal ecosystems.

• Between 1991 and 2000 over 665,000 people died in 2,557 natural disasters of which 90% were water-related events.

Spiritual and Religious

• In many cultures and religions, water represents birth, renewal, cleansing and purifying.

• In the funeral rites of the Hindu, their earthly remains are cremated and returned to the holy River Ganges.

• Since the time Jesus was babtized in the Jordan River, Christians have acknowledged their faith with water babtism.

• In Islam water is important for cleansing and purifying. Muslims must be ritually pure before approaching God in prayer.

• A mikveh is a Jewish ritual bath used for cleansing after contact with a dead body or after menstruation. In ancient times, people had to be purified with a mikveh before they could enter the Temple area.

• The sanctity of water is very important to Zoroastrians. People must not urinate, spit or wash one’s hands in a river, or allow anyone else to.

• Cultures all over the world have their own version of the Great Flood.

Statistics provided by:
Global Environment Outlook
World Water Assessment
Food and Agriculture Organization
    of the United Nations
Human Development Report
World Business Council for
    Sustainable Development
UN Women