Water and People
Estimates of water use in the United States indicate that about 408 billion gallons per day (one thousand million gallons per day, abbreviated Bgal/d) were withdrawn for all uses during 2000. This total has varied less than 3 percent since 1985 as withdrawals have stabilized for the two largest uses,thermoelectric power and irrigation. Fresh ground-water withdrawals (83.3 Bgal/d) during 2000 were 14 percent more than during 1985. Fresh surface-water withdrawals for 2000 were 262 Bgal/d, varying less than 2 percent since 1985.
Much of our water use is hidden. Think about what you had for lunch. A hamburger, for example, requires water to raise wheat for the bun, to grow hay and corn to feed the cattle and to process the bread and beef. Together with french fries and a soft drink, this all-American meal uses about 1,500 gallons of water–enough to fill a small swimming pool. How about your clothes? To grow cotton for a pair of jeans takes about 400 gallons. A shirt requires about 400 gallons. How do you get to school or to the store? To produce the amount of finished steel in a car has in the past required about 32,000 gallons of water. Similarly, the steel in a 30-pound bicycle required 480 gallons. This shows that industry must continue to strive to reduce water use through manufacturing processes that use less water, and through recycling of water.