Each year 80 million additional people will tap the earth’s water. In the past century, global water withdrawals have increased almost tenfold...
Water overconsumption: the United States, Canada, and the UAE at the top of the list...
- since 1990, the world has seen a surge in global use of safe water – from 77% to 83%, an extra one billion people. But there is still a long way to go. 1.1 billion people are still drinking water from unsafe sources like unprotected wells, rivers, ponds and street vendors. And with demand for water higher than ever, the scales are tipped against the poorest when deciding where supplies will go;
- in 2001, world average water use was about 650 cubic metres/person ranging from around 1,900 cubic metres/person in North America to around 250 cubic metres in Africa.
- high income countries used about 1,000 cubic metres per person, twice as much as middle and low income countries, on average. A child born in the developed world consumes 30 to 50 times as much water resources as one in the developing world;
- an average Canadian, for example, uses over 6 times as much water per day as an average Indian, and over 30 times as much as a rural villager in Kenya (326 litres vs. 53 litres vs. 10 litres). And within countries there are equally dramatic disparities, often between urban and rural areas. In urban Indonesia, access to safe water averages at 89%, while in rural areas it was only 69% or lower before the tsunami struck;
- the water required for drinking and other domestic purposes is a significant proportion of the total water demand. Population distribution and density are key factors influencing the availibility of water resources. Increased urbanisation concentrates water demand and can lead to the overexploitation of local water resources. In Europe, for example, the proportion of water for abstracted urban use ranges from about 6.5% in Germany to more than 50% in the United Kingdom;
- higher standards of living are changing water demand patterns. This is reflected mainly in increased domestic water use, especially for personal hygiene. Most of the European population has indoor toilets, showers and/or baths for daily use. The result is that most of urban water consumption is for domestic use. Most of the water use in households is for toilet flushing (33%), bathing and showering (20-32%), and for washing machines and dishwashers (15%). The proportion of water used for cooking and drinking (3%) is minimal compared to the other uses.
- Australian households and businesses consumed the equivalent of almost 50 times the volume of Sydney Harbour (24,909 gigalitres GL) of water in 2000-01, according to figures released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics on May 2004. On average each Australian consumed a total of 115 kilolitres (kL), while Australian households consumed an average of 280 kL. The majority of household water was used for outdoor purposes (44%), such as water for gardens and swimming pools; (1)
...and the emerging economies are following the example.
- the United States have the largest per capita water consumption rate in the world. According to the US Geological Survey, on average each citizen ‘needs’ about 100 gallons (about 378.54 litres) per day just to drink, bathe, flush toilets, wash clothes, water lawns, wash dishes, cook, etc.;
- the amount or water used in Canada per capita basis for all purposes is 1,600 cubic metres. Of the 29 member nations of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, only the United States uses more water than Canada on a per capita basis. Canada’s per capita water consumption is 65% above the OECD average;
- the UAE is the third largest per capita water consuming country in the world after the USA and Canada. Consumption of drinking water in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) states - the UAE, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Oman, Qatar and Kuwait - rose from 1.9 billion cubic metres in 1958 to 3.9 billion cubic metres in 1999. The volume of potable water consumption would total 8.8 billion cubic metres by 2010. To meet this growing demand, governments in the region are turning towards desalination. The six GCC states have collectively spent more than US$40 billion on building around 550 seawater desalination stations over the last 25 years. They include around 393 plants in Saudi Arabia, 98 in the UAE and 34 in Kuwait - these provide nearly 85% of the Gulf region's drinking water. (2)
- in China, on average, per capita water consumption of urban residents per day reached 219 litres by the end of 2002. In Beijing, per capita water consumption is 4 times higher than the world average and 80 times higher than that of Japan. Even in cities in the interior regions of China’s northwest where water shortages are most serious, the average per capita water consumption is twice as high as in Europe; (3)
- Industrial water consumption is also 10 to 20 times greater than in developed countries. In China, the amount of water required to produce an industrial output worth 10,000 yuan (US$1,208) is 103 cubic meters. The same output would use only 8 and 6 cubic meters in the United States and Japan, respectively. (3)
(1) Australian Bureau of Statistics, May 19, 2005. [ www.abs.gov.au/Ausstats/abs@.nsf/0/cc9d340e1feef80
(2) Meena S Janardhan, “Water Conservation Reaches the Mosque”, IPS Asia-Pacific's Asia Water Wire, May 27, 2005.[ www.waterobservatory.org/headlines.cfm?refID=72966]
(3) Wei Qing, “Hundreds of Cities in China Face Water Shortages”, Epoch Times, June 22, 2005. [ www.waterconserve.info/articles/reader.asp?linkid=43308]