Water Consumption by Countries
Water is essential for all life on earth, it’s not only crucial for our good health, but that of our wildlife, the environment, and industry. However, this is one essential which cannot be produced artificially, it is a limited resource that is permanently recycled across the world and that makes it even more precious. The ability to bath and drink safely is something most of us take for granted, but in a world of 7 billion people with a population that's expanding all the time, demand is increasing. 70% of our world may be made up of oceans, seas and rivers, but only 2.5% of that is drinkable.
Population increases mean drinkable supplies are a real global concern, but some parts of the world suffer from severe shortages and others have plenty, so the problem is unevenly distributed. In countries like Africa and also India, demand is huge and natural sources like rivers and lakes are being used faster than they are replenished. The issue is apparent across every continent, and in some countries, like the UK, massive amounts of water are also imported.
Country by Country
The United States
In the USA, the population is growing at a massive rate, even compared to other industrialised nations. On average, each American uses more than 420 litres each day and this rate of consumption is one of the world’s highest. As supplies are running low, successive governments have attempted new approaches to the way they manage the industry, including raising costs, implementing summer restrictions, and cutting back on the use of lakes as recreation centres at certain points during the year.
As delivery and treatment systems age, new challenges are presented and this is true of states across the country. In 2014, forty out of fifty states took part in compiling a report, in it they told the Government Accountability Office they expected shortages within a decade, though not as part of a drought.
People in the UK use around 150 litres each day, a figure which has been steadily increasing since 1930. If we add what is needed for food production and consumables, the amount is closer to 340 litres per day. What makes these figures especially worrying is that the UK has less available resources than many of its European counterparts. The UK is also a huge importer of bottled water and only 38% of its supplies are drawn from indigenous resources. This means the UK is depending on other European countries to supply its citizens, although those countries may also be facing shortages.
According to the United Nations, the minimum amount of fluid each person needs in one day is 50 litres, this includes what is used for drinking, cooking and washing. Sadly, in Africa, many people are managing on just 20 litres each day, the equivalent of a 90-second shower. That’s not the full story however, because as a continent Africa is radically split between areas that have enough for each person to drink and areas where harsh droughts can last for five years.
As a general trend, no other nation on earth suffers from shortages to the extent that Africa does. Across the globe, 19 of the 25 nations where people do not have safe drinking supplies are part of the African continent. It works out that 75%, or three out of every four people have to use an unclean supply for drinking and day to day use. Without the funds or resources to change the way it is supplied, only 4% of the water available in Africa is used annually.
Within one of the worlds driest populated continents, consumption levels vary greatly. In coastal areas, the average figure can be as low as 100 litres per person per day, but in drier inland spots that figure rises to more than 800 litres. An average figure for the entire country comes out at 340 litres. Additionally, copious amounts are used by industry and communities in hydrating public parks and fighting fires, but leakages also account for some losses.
70% of Australia is semi-desert or desert, and in these vast swathes of land, there is little or no rain year upon year. This makes it vital for Australia to carefully negotiate how its supplies are managed and distributed.
This part of the world is something of a flashpoint in terms of supply and consumption. Floods, loss of rivers to farming and salinization make the problems worse. This is compounded by sewerage and industrial waste entering streams and lakes, resulting in highly toxic areas. Population growth, coupled with pathogens in rivers, constantly affects the health of local people, wildlife, and crops.
Governments are tackling the problem with legislation which both protects resources and encourages the public to be more mindful of their consumption. In the USA, the Safe Drinking Water Act of 2017 protects the supply and quality of this resource, whilst in the UK the Water Act of 2014 put in place environmental safeguards.
Shortages won’t be remedied overnight, but by raising awareness of the problem we can begin to start dealing with it as individuals. Many suppliers now provide home monitoring kits which help families to keep an eye on their consumption and make small changes to reduce what they use.