The United States Geological Survey (USGS) is the largest water, earth, and biological science agency. It collects, monitors, analyzes, and provides science about water (along with other natural resources), and issues related to it. According to USGS estimates, each person in the United States uses about 80-100 gallons of fresh water per day. On a monthly basis nationwide, Americans use 3.9 trillion gallons of water.
Water Usage in the United States
The largest use of household water is flushing the toilet, which uses about 2 to 4 gallons per flush, depending on the age of your toilet, and after that, to take showers (2 to 5 gallons per minute, or a total on average of about 8.5 gallons) and baths (a full tub uses up to 36 gallons). Washing your clothes uses about 25 gallons per load for newer washers, but older model washing machines might use about 40 gallons per load.
Business consumption of fresh water is also staggering. Consider farming activities, for example: agriculture can consume 75 to 90% of the available fresh water in a region. Simply growing one ton of grain can consume 1,000 tons of water. Raising a single cow consumes over 1,200 gallons.
Water Consumption in Certain African Countries
In many African countries, people use less than five gallons of freshwater per day. The reason is that water supplies in many areas are limited and becoming more scarce. In much of Africa, women generally have the responsibility of collecting water for their families. In some African countries, they may spend as much as eight hours each day collecting water. The average distance walked by women in Africa in search of water is over three miles each day. By 2025, the United Nations estimates about 30% of the world’s population residing in 50 countries will face water shortages. Governments in African countries are facing water-use decisions that involve difficult choices.
Many experts recommend that governments raise water prices to encourage more efficient use of water for residential and commercial purposes. The problem with raising prices is that it will hurt impoverished segments of the population because they lack the financial resources to pay higher prices. Another issue is that those households often do not have ready access to piped water service or irrigation.
In the country of Liberia, only 1 in 4 Liberians has access to safe drinking water, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). Local water in Liberia is generally not safe to consume as it is not filtered and is frequently exposed to dangerous pollutants. Due to the country’s poor sanitation, there is a serious risk of contracting water borne diseases. As many as one half of all Liberians have no access to a toilet and therefore must use streams or open areas.
The Dangers of Polluted Water Consumption
The relationship between water and health is an important element to the success of the recovering country of Liberia. When clean, fresh water is not readily available, individual health suffers. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), 80% of all diseases in the developing world are water related in some way. Water-borne diseases are prevalent in most developing regions. Irrigation and other water development projects are often breeding grounds for schistosomiasis when not properly managed and operated.
The WHO estimates that 3.3 million people die annually from water and sanitation related problems. In 2012, the WHO found that E. coli was present in 58 percent of the water in Monrovia, the capital city of Liberia, due to public defecation. Such unsanitary conditions foster unsafe water and spread illness. Twenty percent of the deaths in Liberia are related to water and sanitation challenges. Diarrheal diseases are the second leading cause of death for children in Liberia.
Other dangerous water-borne diseases due to poor sewage systems and lack of sanitation are prevalent in Liberia, such as cholera, hepatitis A, typhoid, tuberculosis and lassa fever. Lassa fever is endemic in Liberia and breaks out in the country annually. It is transmitted human to human or animal to human. Medical experts believe that transmission to humans is likely caused by coming into contact with urine or feces from rodents which have invaded grain stores.
How to Address the Water Issues in Liberia
One effective way to bring fresh water and sanitation to more people in Liberia is through the hard work of non-profit organizations such as The Last Well. Dedicated workers partner with local experts and community members to identify and find funding for a solution that works for that community. To help ensure it is a solution that stands the test of time, they can assist with hygiene training and education for all.
The Last Well is a charitable organization that is devoted to providing clean water for the good people of Liberia and many other African countries that face challenges in regard to clean water access. Speak to one of the knowledgeable staff at The Last Well for more information on what they are doing to make fresh water accessible in African countries and how you can offer assistance.