About 97 per cent of the world's water supply is seawater and another 2 per cent is frozen into polar ice caps, leaving only 1 per cent as drinkable freshwater. Yet more than half of that is polluted. In 2002, U.S. Water News reported the World Water Council's projection that, if current water consumption trends continued, the 20 per cent of the world's population (30 countries) already facing water shortages at that time would increase to 30 per cent of the world's population (50 countries) by 2025.
U.S. is the Biggest Culprit
In 2002, the first Water Poverty Index rated the U.S. as the country responsible for the most wasted water in the world -- consistent with the nation's ranking as responsible for the greatest per capita water consumption in the world. On average, an American household uses 293 gallons of water daily -- 95 per cent of which literally goes down the drain -- while the average African household uses only 5 gallons daily, and people in other parts of the world get by on even less than that. With Americans using 3 gallons each time they flush the toilet, in only a matter of seconds they make use of what would be an entire day's quota in some countries.
Most of America's wasted water is due to daily bathroom regimens. About 40 per cent of water used in the average American home is consumed by toilets, 22 per cent by showers and 25 per cent by faucets while brushing teeth, washing hands and shaving. Showering for 20 minutes instead of 10 wastes 25 to 50 gallons of water, letting the faucet run while you brush your teeth wastes about 4 gallons, and letting the faucet run until water is hot wastes about 3 gallons.
Excessive water consumption requires increased withdrawals from surface water sources like lakes and rivers -- which also increases energy demand for processes to treat the water and render it potable, and in turn produces more harmful byproducts from power plants. Additionally, when wasted water runoff from over-watering fields and landscapes flows across the ground, it accumulates litter, debris, sediment, salts and other pollutants as it travels, eventually making its way into water sources, and thus into the drinking water supply. Nutrients that are gathered along with the other pollutants and returned to the water supply are detrimental to aquatic habitats when they occur in excess and become concentrated.
The U.S. Geological Survey reported that as a whole, the U.S. used about 408 billion gallons of water daily in 2000. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, the country would conserve more than 3 trillion gallons of water a year if every household installed water-efficient appliances.