Environment Planet Earth 36 Eye-Opening Facts About Water By Melissa Breyer Editorial Director Hunter College F.I.T., State University of New York Cornell University Melissa Breyer is Treehugger’s editorial director. She is a sustainability expert and author whose work has been published by the New York Times and National Geographic, among others. our editorial process Melissa Breyer Updated September 11, 2020 Treehugger / Kristine Klaire Hojilla Share Twitter Pinterest Email Environment Weather Outdoors Conservation In which we gush about all things H2O in celebration of World Water Day. In 1993, the United Nations General Assembly designated March 22 as the first World Water Day. And with good reason – without water, we’d be nothing. Just dust. Water is one of the most common substances on earth, and one of the most vital; it’s a tremendously valuable resource, yet one we squander and pollute prodigiously. So Much Water, So Little Useable Treehugger / Kristine Klaire Hojilla Water is deceptive. For while it pours freely from the heavens and seems to flow endlessly in rivers, it’s a finite resource; we only have what we have. And although there is about 332,500,000 cubic miles of it on earth – only one-hundredth of one percent of the world's water is readily available for human use. We really need to learn how to show it some respect. Which is where World Water Day comes in. Even though water deserves celebration every day, we’ll take this occasion to give a shout-out to this incredible compound that gives us life and sustains the planet around us. So with that in mind, consider the following facts – some wondrous, some disconcerting, all eye-opening. Facts About Water Treehugger / Kristine Klaire Hojilla 1. The average human body is made of 50 to 65 percent water. 2. Newborn babies have even more, ringing in at 78 percent water. 3. A gallon of water weighs 8.34 pounds; a cubic foot of water weighs 62.4 pounds. 4. A liter of water weighs 1 kilo; a cubic meter of water weighs 1 tonne. (The rest of the statistics are in imperial units since they are U.S.-based and so is this site; but the original metric system was created with base units that could be derived from the weight of a specified volume of pure water ... hence the nice round numbers.) 5. An inch of water covering one acre (27,154 gallons) weighs 113 tons. 6. Water covers 70.9 percent of the planet’s surface. 7. Ninety-seven percent of the water on Earth is salt water; the water found in the Earth’s lakes, rivers, streams, ponds, swamps, etcetera accounts for only 0.3 percent of the world’s fresh water. The rest is trapped in glaciers or is in the ground. 8. There is more water in the atmosphere than in all of our rivers combined. 9. If all of the water vapor in our planet’s atmosphere fell as water at once and spread out evenly, it would only cover the globe with about an inch of water. 10. More than one-quarter of all bottled water comes from a municipal water supply – the same place that tap water comes from. 11. Approximately 400 billion gallons of water are used in the United States per day; nearly half of that is used for thermoelectric power generation. 12. In a year, the average American residence uses over 100,000 gallons. Treehugger / Kristine Klaire Hojilla 13. Since the average faucet releases 2 gallons of water per minute, you can save up to four gallons of water every morning by turning off the tap while you brush your teeth. 14. A running toilet can waste up to 200 gallons of water each day. 15. At one drip per second, a faucet can leak 3,000 gallons in a year. 16. A bath uses up to 70 gallons of water; a five-minute shower uses 10 to 25 gallons. 17. The first water pipes in the U.S. were made from hollowed logs. 18. Leaks in the New York City water supply system account for 36 million gallons of wasted water per day. 19. There are around one million miles of water pipeline and aqueducts in the U.S. and Canada, enough to circle the globe 40 times. 20. 748 million people in the world do not have access to an improved source of drinking water 21. And 2.5 billion people do not have use of an improved sanitation facility. Treehugger / Kristine Klaire Hojilla 22. Some 1.8 billion people worldwide drink water that is contaminated with feces. 23. The World Health Organization recommends 2 gallons per person daily to meet the requirements of most people under most conditions; and around 5 gallons per person daily to cover basic hygiene and food hygiene needs. 24. On average, an American resident uses about 100 gallons of water per day. 25. On average, a European resident uses about 50 gallons of water per day. 26. On average, a resident of sub-Saharan Africa uses 2 to 5 gallons of water per day. 27. It takes .26 gallons of water to irrigate one calorie of food. 28. (Yet it takes 26 gallons for one calorie of food when water is used inefficiently.) 29. It takes 2.6 gallons of water to make a sheet of paper. 30. It takes 6.3 gallons of water to make 17 ounces of plastic. Treehugger / Kristine Klaire Hojilla 31. It takes 924 gallons of water to produce 2.2 pounds of rice. 32. It takes 2,641 gallons of water to make a pair of jeans. 33. It takes 3,962 gallons of water to produce 2.2 pounds of beef. 34. It takes 39,090 gallons of water to manufacture a new car. 35. In developing nations women and girls are primarily responsible for collecting water; on average, 25 percent of their day is spent on this task. 36. Collectively, South African women and children walk a daily distance equivalent to 16 trips to the moon and back to fetch water. Sources: UN World Water Day; EPA Water Sense; EPA Water. View Article Sources “World Water Day: March 22.” United Nations. “How Much Water is There on Earth?.” U.S. Geological Survey. “Water: A Finite Resource.” Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. “The Water in You: Water and the Human Body.” U.S. Geological Survey. W. David Yates. Safety Professional's Reference and Study Guide, Third Edition. Taylor & Francis Group. 2020. “Weights and Measures.” Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. “Rain and Precipitation.” U.S. Geological Survey. “Volumes of the World's Oceans from ETOPO1.” National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. “National Wildlife Volume 2.” University of Chicago. 1963 “The Atmosphere and the Water Cycle.” U.S. Geological Survey. “Do you still drink bottled water?.” Columbia University. “Water Trivia Facts.” United States Environmental Protection Agency. “Indoor Water Use in the USA.” Environmental Protection Agency. “Fix a Leak Week.” United States Environmental Protection Agency. “The WaterSense Current: Summer 2017.” United States Environmental Protection Agency. “International Decade for Action: Water for Life.” United Nations. “Water.” World Health Organization. “What is the minimum quantity of water needed?.” World Health Organization. “Facts and Figures About Water.” World Water Council. “Water Equivalency Facts.” TMI Sustainable Aquatics. “Drinking Water Facts and Figures.” United States Environmental Protection Agency. Murray, Anne Firth. From Outrage to Courage: The Unjust and Unhealthy Situation of Women in Poorer Countries and What They are Doing About It. Common Courage Press. 2013.