Tiny Tuesday: How Much Water Do You Use?

Americans use a ton of water. That’s no exaggeration; in fact, it’s an understatement. The average American draws 80 to 100 gallons per day through the plumbing in their house. Here’s how it breaks down…

Water required to flush the toilet: 4 gallons. New toilets use 1.6 gallons per flush, and many have a dual-flush option that may use less than 1 gallon.
Water required to take one 10-minute shower: 25 gallons. New low-flow showerheads may use only 1.5 to 2 gallons per minute.
Water required to take one bath: 36 gallons.
Water required to wash one load of dishes: 16 gallons for an older dishwasher, 6 gallons for an Energy Star model. Most kitchen faucets use 1.5 to 2 gallons per minute – something to consider when you hand-wash dishes.
Water required to wash one load of laundry: 40 gallons for an older washer, 25 gallons for an Energy Star model.
Water required to irrigate 100 square feet of lawn: 62 gallons per week.

A gallon of water weighs 8.35 pounds, so the average American is responsible for 668 to 835 pounds of water flowing through their home every day. That’s a lot, but it’s less than half a ton. The real crusher is the water hidden from view – the water it takes to grow crops, raise livestock, and refine raw materials into the products you consume every day. Have a look…

One gallon of gasoline: 3 gallons of water.
One gallon of ethanol: 10 gallons.
One newspaper: 3.5 gallons.
One gallon of bottled water: 3.5 gallons. (It takes 22 gallons of water to make one pound of plastic. A 1-liter bottle contains about half an ounce of plastic.)
One cup of coffee: 66 gallons.
One 5-ounce glass of wine: 34 gallons.
One pint of beer: 37 gallons.
One 8-ounce glass of milk: 61 gallons.
1/2 pound broccoli: 17 gallons.
1 apple (about 1/3 pound): 33 gallons.
Two eggs: 105 gallons.
1/2 pound cooked rice (about 1/2 cup uncooked): 150 gallons.
One 8-ounce chicken breast: 259 gallons.
One 8-ounce steak: 924 gallons.

Fuel, drinks, and food (especially animal products) add about 1300 gallons (over 5 tons) of water to the average red-meat-craving American’s daily consumption. A vegetarian might get this hidden consumption down to 400 gallons a day (1.5 tons), which is far better, but still dwarfs the amount that runs through their plumbing. And that doesn’t count the water required to make building materials, furniture, apparel, computers, smartphones, and everything else under your roof. Just something to think about.

US Geological Survey
Water Footprint Network
Water Footprint Calculator

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