How Big Is Your Water Footprint?

August 26, 2010

Water dropHow much water does the average American use in a day?  1,981 gallons, according to the water use calculator on the National Geographic website.  Luckily, the calculator provides us with ways to cut that use.  But first, some facts about water use in the U.S.:

  • Only five percent of the water we use runs through hoses, taps, and toilets.  The rest comes from the food we eat, products we buy, and energy and services we depend on.
  • On average, 10 gallons of water a day are lost to leaks.
  • Flushing the toilet can add up to 20 gallons a day.
  • Using a dishwasher is actually more water efficient than hand washing.
  • The average pool takes 22,000 gallons to fill.
  • A gallon of gasoline takes nearly 13 gallons of water to produce.

So, how can we reduce the amount of water we use on a daily basis?  Start by completing the footprint calculator (it’s actually kind of fun, the duck is cute!), then try some of the following:

  • Recycling a pound of paper saves 3.5 gallons of water.
  • Cut down on car washing, or go to a commercial car wash where the water is recycled.
  • Become a vegan, not eating meat or dairy, and consume 600 gallons less.
  • Let your lawn go brown, or plant native/drought resistant species.
  • Take a shower instead of a bath.  Use a low-flow showerhead and save 15 gallons during a 10 minute shower.
  • Repair leaky faucets and toilets.
  • (This one isn’t going to be popular) Don’t flush the toilet every time you go to the bathroom.

I remember clearly a few years ago, during a drought in the Northwest, when the top news story in my area was a brown lawn contest and how we shouldn’t be flushing every time we go.  Implement just a few of these tips, and you can help save one of our most precious resources, plus cut your water and sewer bill.

Photo courtesy of Laszlo Ilyes through a Creative Commons License.



Dawn Killough

has over 15 years experience in the construction industry and is the author of Green Building Design 101, an e-book available from Amazon. She is a LEED AP and Certified Green Building Advisor, and has worked on the LEED Certification of three projects in Salem, Oregon.