Business & Policy Environmental Policy The World Water Crisis by the Numbers 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 March 21, 2019 ©. piyaset Share Twitter Pinterest Email Business & Policy Corporate Responsibility Environmental Policy Economics Food Issues In honor of World Water Day, here are some sobering numbers behind the billions of people living without safe water. Here in the United States, the average person uses between 80 to 100 gallons of water every day. When adding virtual water to the equation – the invisible water used to produce food, goods, electricity, et cetera – we can add another 1300 gallons to that number. In Africa, household water use averages out to about 12 gallons per person per day. Across the globe, billions of people live without “safe water,” which is defined as “safely managed drinking water service,” water that is accessible on the premises, available when needed, and free from contamination. We can send people to the moon, but we can’t get water to all of the planet’s inhabitants. And often times, it’s the marginalized groups – women, children, refugees, indigenous peoples, disabled people and many others – who are overlooked and forced to struggle without access to safe water. Which leads to the theme of UN World Water Day 2019 (March 22): “Leaving no one behind.” As part of the central promise of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development – that as sustainable development progresses, everyone must benefit – Sustainable Development Goal 6 (SDG 6) includes the aim that everyone should have access to safe water by 2030. The water situation really is a mess. While we don’t feel the effects of it very often in The States, aside from Californian’s not getting to water their lawns sometimes, other parts of the world don’t have it so easy. To put things in perspective, consider these numbers that I have extrapolated in part from a UN World Water Day fact sheet (PDF). 2.5 percent: The percentage of Earth’s water that is fresh. 68 percent: The percentage of Earth’s fresh water that is locked in ice. 70 percent: The percentage of fresh water that is used for agriculture. 3,100,000: The gallons of water it takes to produce the meat from one cow. 2.1 billion: The number of people who do not have safe water at home. 1 out of 4: The number of primary schools that do not have drinking water. 8 out of 10: The number of households in which women and girls are responsible for water collection. on average, 25 percent of their day is spent on this task. 68.5 million: The number of people forced to flee their homes, and for which accessing safe water services is exceedingly challenging. 159 million: How many people collect their drinking water from surface water, like ponds and streams. 1.8 billion: The number of people worldwide who drink water that is contaminated with feces 4 billion: The number of people who experience severe water scarcity during at least one month of the year. 700+: How many children under the age of five that die every day from diarrhea linked to unsafe waterand poor sanitation. 700 million: The number of people who could be displaced by intense water scarcity by 2030. And those are just some of the numbers – eye-opening, right? The video below is sobering as well. For more information, visit the UN's World Water Day site.