U.S. Lags Behind China and India, Ranking Third in Overall Water Consumption
Introductory Note: A study conducted by two engineers at the University of Twente in the Netherlands calculated how much water is used around the world and what countries have the highest consumption rates. The US ranks third in overall consumption but first in per capita consumption. The eating habits of Americans–the high meat diet–is cited as the main reason that a relatively few Americans can rival the mammoth populations of China and India in water consumption. Meat eating is seldom mentioned as a water conservation issue and many Americans fall for the notion that gluttonous water consumption can be brought under control if we can only remember to turn off the tap while we brush our teeth.
Below are the highlights of the Twente research. —Hardly Waite, Gazette Senior Editor.
More than 9 billion cubic meters of water are used around the world each year. The countries with the greatest annual consumption of water are:
• China, 1,207 billion cubic meters
• India, 1,182 billion cubic meters
• U.S., 1,053 billion cubic meters.
“After the U.S., the amount of water consumed per country drops significantly,” says Klaus Reichardt, CEO and founder of Waterless Co.
“For instance, Brazil, which is next on the list, uses less than half of what is consumed in the U.S.”
However, the study shows the amount of water consumed on a per capita (per person) basis can vary significantly. Even though it is number three on the top ten list, the U.S. has the highest per capita water footprint at 2,842 cubic meters per person.
This amount consumed per person can depend greatly on a country’s eating habits. For instance, the U.S. is considered to be a big consumer of meat. And, significant amounts of water are used to raise cattle and process meat.
In contrast, in India few people consume meat. As a result, the country’s per capita consumption of water is less than 1,400 cubic meters per year, essentially half of what is consumed in the U.S.
“Right now, the U.S. is actually a net exporter of water,” says Reichardt. “We export water in the form of food and products. However, this may change as we and other countries grapple with water shortages and the rising cost of water.”
Top ten water consuming countries in the world are: