Twenty Things You Didn't Know About Water

May 25, 2011

By Kyle Newell

Water is the world’s most precious resource.  Without clean water, there can be no agriculture, no trade, and no human life.  Civilizations rise and fall on the ebbs and flows of water’s stream.

Uncounted millions of people across the world, and even here in the United States, must grapple with the challenges with water scarcity. Thankfully, human ingenuity and simple common sense provide the solutions needed to smartly conserve and  improve access to potable water.

Here are 20 things you probably didn’t know about water…

The total volume of water on Earth is about 336,000,000 cubed miles[1],with only 2.5 percent of the total volume at 8,400,000 cubed miles.

That is enough water for every man and woman who has ever lived on earth to take an hour shower for their entire lives, 20 times [2][3]

However, only 1 percent of this water is suitable for human uses.

Showering is one of the leading ways in which we use water in the home, accounting for nearly 17 percent of residential indoor water use, or about 30 gallons per household per day. That's nearly 1.2 trillion gallons of water used in the United States annually just for showering.[4]

Moen's Eco-Performance shower heads reduce the amount of water needed to shower by limiting the flow rate.

Sloan has yet to go into the waterless shower market, but the Sloan Waterless Toilet saves 30,000 gallons of water a year per unit.

Up for one, down for two – Caroma developed the dual flush toilet which handles solid and liquid waste differently from standard American style toilets, giving the user a choice of flushes.

Caroma toilets have saved an estimated 4,883,734,221 gallons of water in the U.S. alone.

The problem of global water scarcity is becoming more and more significant.  

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) reports that by the year 2013, an estimated 36 states will experience water shortages as a result of increased water usage and inefficient water management from aging regional infrastructures.

Recognizing this, The EPA WaterSense label recognizes shower heads, faucets, toilets, water softeners, and irrigation systems that perform as well but are 20 percent more water efficient than products in their category.[5]

Companies, whose very existence depends on water, know the importance of securing potable resources. The Coca-Cola Africa Foundation, Diageo,and international organizations have announced a $6 million strategic partnership to provide sustainable access to safe drinking water in Africa.

The partnership will work with communities to drive the expansion of an innovative water service delivery model to Ghana, Nigeria, and Liberia in 2011.

Dirty Water – No problem – Vestergaard-Frandsen developed the LifeStraw where people can drink directly from contaminated sources.[6]

Not to be outdone, Proctor and Gamble’s Pur sachet and Clorox’s water filters also make water drinkable.

With 97 percent of the world’s water being stored in oceans, General Electric is rehydrating cities by the sea by providing improved technologies to desalinate.

World-wide, 13,080 desalination plants produce more than 12 billion gallons of water a day.[7]  The world's largest desalination plant is the Jebel Ali Desalination Plant in the United Arab Emirates which produces 400 million cubic yards of water per year.

The WateReuse Association defines reused, recycled, or reclaimed water as water that is used more than one time before it passes back into the natural water cycle.

Water recycling is reusing treated wastewater for beneficial purposes such as agricultural and landscape irrigation, industrial processes, toilet flushing, and replenishing of ground water. Reclaimed water has been used for crop irrigation for more than 100 years, landscape irrigation for more than 70 years, and drinking water augmentation for more than 40 years.

Black & Veatch, a leading global engineering, consulting, and construction company, implements these projects including in Israel where 104 billion gallons of water are reclaimed every year.