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World Water Consumption, Pricing and Distribution – Illustrated

Quite often in the water industry, ideas get expressed through numbers. Percentage daily usage, microbial counts, evaporation loss rates, temperature variances…you get the idea. It’s easier to understand complex data when it’s represented graphically. With that in mind, here are some interesting water statistics that demonstrate just how much water we’re using and how.

World Water Use

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) estimates that world water use breaks down this way:

  • Agriculture – 68%
  • Industry – 8%
  • Municipal – 18%
  • Reservoir Losses – 6%

This graph plainly illustrates how much water food production requires. It’s also noteworthy that, in around 1940, all types of water use suddenly started to increase at a faster rate. For other interesting irrigation-related charts, check out this FAO page.


Distribution of Fresh Water

Looking at a photo of the Earth taken from space, it’s easy to see that we live on a planet dominated by water. But when you consider how much of that water is actually readily available and consumable, the number is pretty small in relative terms. The graph below contains a lot of information but it still manages to show in a concise way how fresh water is distributed.

Stated differently, if you had a one litre random sample of the Earth’s entire water supply, only about .09 millilitres would be readily usable.

Water distribution by continent

Water is not distributed around our planet equally. Some places, South America for example, use a relatively small percentage of accessible water. According to a Wired magazine article about water scarcity, South America holds 28% of the world’s water resources but only uses 6%. Asia is on the other end of the spectrum. That continent contains 29% of the world’s water but uses a whopping 50%. Check out the infographic below to see how other parts of the planet stack up.


Water Pricing versus Water Consumption

This chart highlights the relationship between the cost of water and usage rates.

If we look at the upper and lower ends, some noteworthy numbers jump out:

  • Canadians use around 325 litres of water per day but in relative terms pays about 30 cents.
  • Germans on the other hand, have a much lower daily water usage rate, around 120 litres. Their water pricing is also substantially more expensive at $2.10.

It’s probably not a coincidence that nations with relatively low water costs tend to use water more freely than countries where water is a pricier commodity.

At LuminUltra, we pride ourselves on providing easily understandable answers to our client’s water questions. Our 2nd Generation ATP® testing methods, our new DNA-based GeneCount® qPCR products and services and our extensive application experience via LuminUltra Cloud mean we can give our customers a clear picture of what’s happening with their water…just like these statistics give a clear picture of what’s going on in the world of water.

Stacey Pineau

Clearly explaining complex topics has been Stacey’s focus for close to 25 years now. She helps plan how best to reach the right people, then works to provide them with relevant information that’s easy to understand. Stacey is a team player with an entrepreneurial spirit. She has broad experience that spans the private and public sectors. A lover of words, Stacey has a slightly irrational love of the library and a personal collection of way too many books and magazines. She lives in Fredericton with her husband Ray, their two children and dog Scouty.

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