Quick Takeaways

  • Water usage and treatment is a huge, yet often taken for granted, part of homeownership. 
  • In the United States, the average family uses more than 300 gallons of water per day – about 70% of this use occurs indoors.
  • Outdoor water use usually accounts for around 30% of per home water usage but is often much higher in drier parts of the country.

Source: How We Use Water (United States Environmental Protection Agency, Sep. 3, 2021)

The United States Geological Survey (USGS) conducts water surveys every five years in partnership with local, State, and Federal agencies. However, the most recent data available is from 2015. This data breaks down how America uses our water into 8 categories: public supply, domestic, irrigation, thermoelectric power, self-supplied industrial, mining, livestock, and aquaculture. 

Two major yet completely opposite water issues are currently facing the United States, a historic drought in the West and Southwest, and rising sea levels on the coasts. In two major studies released in February of 2022, it was determined that regardless of any future efforts to cut down on greenhouse emissions, the sea level will rise at least one foot by 2050. Additionally, the drought in the Southwest is the worst it has been since 800 A.D. Both increased water levels and decreasing water supply will require huge overhauls in flood protection and water rights in many areas of the county.

The debate for water rights has only grown more contentious in recent years as drought and new agriculture endeavors like recreational marijuana dictate more and more of the water supply. On a positive note, Native American Tribes will see 1.7 billion dollars in federal funds as part of the Indian Water Rights Settlement Completion Fund.

A “solar canal” – the first of its kind – has been approved in California. Not only will the 4,000-mile canal bring water to 35 million Californians, but it will also be covered in solar panels, providing clean energy and reducing evaporation as the water travels.  Meanwhile in Arizona, developers are buying up farmland and preparing to send its water to the ever-expanding Phoenix suburbs, 200 miles away. In Texas, a one-of-a-kind waterway full of endangered species and 700-year-old Cyprus trees is being considered for a “conservation-scale” development, but environmentalists are weary. 

The shadow of the Flint water crisis still looms large over American’s perception of clean drinking water, and recent chemical contaminants found in water in New Jersey have not helped. However, President Biden recently pledged one billion dollars toward the restoration of the Great Lakes, which could be a step toward building back trust in tap water.

See References for more information.

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