What if Americans Only Had as Much Water as Families in Africa?

The average family in Africa gets by on only five gallons of water a day, according to this thought-provoking PSA video from bewaterwise.com, a project of the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California.

The average American family (directly) uses 552 gallons of water a day, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.

Clearly, that is an inequality, and it may give U.S. consumers pause when it comes to wasting water. My colleague Jeff Yeager recently wrote about the 10 things he learned while living without running water at home for a spell (hint: hot water is very special).

Here in the Washington, D.C. region, residents of Prince George’s County, Maryland, are battling a water shortage thanks to a main problem, in the throes of the summer’s first heat wave in the area.

Although 552 gallons a day sounds like a big figure, it actually pales to our total water footprint, which includes the “embedded” water in the food we eat, the fuel and electricity we use, the clothes we wear, the products we use, and so on (see interactive). Water gets embedded in those things when it is needed to grow the crops we (or our livestock) consume, when it is needed to process industrial materials that go into our products, or when it is shot down fracking wells, to name a few.

In total, each American is responsible for roughly 2,000 gallons of water use each day. So for a family of four, that would be 8,000 gallons a day.

To learn about your own water use, and get tips on ways to reduce it, try our water calculator. Also sign up for Change the Course, our free campaign (with partners!) to help put back water in the embattled Colorado River Basin, the source of water for millions of people. Text ‘River’ to 77177 to join or signup online.