Domestic Use of Water
Nichole Abrashinsky
Part of Water is Life, a class website on water privatization and commodification, produced by students of Geography 378 (International Environmental Problems & Policy) at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, USA, Spring 2004.

    "Thousands have lived without love, not one without water."

    -- W. H. Auden

    Where there is water, there is life. Life exists around numerous uses of water which makes it important for survival and luxury. It is a part of our biosphere that should not be overused, ignored, or taken for granted. Because of this, water should be conserved to sustain our domestic needs for the future.


Domestic Water Use and Demands

As world population is constantly growing, the demand of water increases each and every day. The luxuries of domestic uses of water have become a necessity to people in their homes and backyards. Domestic water is normally characterized by its use inside and outside the home: washing the dishes, cooking a meal, laundry, bathing, watering the lawn or garden, and other household activities.

In a typical home in the United States, approximately 50% of water is used in the bathroom. The toilet makes up 26%, while the shower and sink use 23%. Outside of the house, 35% of water use is for lawn or garden care. Below is a picture showing more detailed information of water use inside of a home.
Below is a table showing specific domestic activities with normal uses and conservation uses of water. Each activity is displayed to show the differences between each. This table gives a great indication that water is a valuable resource.


Normal Use
Conservation Use
Depends on Tank Size
5-7 gallons
Displacement bottles in tank 4 gallons


Water Running
25 gallons
Wet down; soap down 4 gallons

Tub Full
40 gallons
Minimal water level 10-12 gallons
Brushing Teeth
Tap Running
5 gallons
Wet brush; turn water off;
rinse 1/2 gallon
Washing Hands or Face
Tap Running
2 gallons

Plug and Fill Basin 1 gallon

Run Water to Cool
1 gallon

Keep Water in Refrigerator
8 ounces
Cleaning Vegetables
Tap Running
3 gallons

Fill Pan with Water to Clean
1/2 gallon
Full Cycle
16 gallons

Short Cycle
7 gallons
Dishes by Hand
Tap Running
30 gallons

Wash and Rinse in Dishpan
or Sink
5 gallons
Washing Clothes
Full Cycle, Top Water Level
60 gallons
Short Cycle, Minimal Water
27 gallons

Information provided by the U. S. Dept of Agriculture, Natural Resources Conservation Service.

These graphs show more detailed information about conserved and non-conserved typical single family home water use.



Due to these individual and personal habits, domestic use of water is increasing. “Of all the social and natural crises we humans face, the water crisis is the one that lies at the heart of our survival and that of our planet Earth," said UNESCO's director-general, Koichiro Matsuura, in a prepared statement. "No region will be spared from the impact of this crisis, which touches every facet of life, from the health of children to the ability of nations to secure food for their citizens" (Ehrenman, Mechanical Engineering).

Global consumption of water has also increased twice as much as the population during the past 20 years. According to the United Nations, the demands for access for fresh water are unattainable to more than one billion people.

This graph shows the percentage of specific countries (Asia, South America, Australia, Europe, North America, and Africa) withdraw and consumption rates between the year 1995 and 2025.


Australian Case Study

In Australia there are huge demands for water, (see Australia's Economy for more information). It is one of the driest countries, due to an extreme drought that has been occurring for the past six years. Australia is also one of the top consumers of water per person in the world. According to the figures below, the domestic uses of water for Melbourne (based on average household water consumption) are reasonably similar to those in the southwestern areas of the United States. In Melbourne, an average family uses 19% of their total water for flushing the toilet and 35% for garden and lawn watering.
Garden 35%
Bathroom 26%
Toilet 19%
Laundry 15%
Kitchen 4%
Drinking 1%
Almost 65% (156 kiloliters) of water consumed per year is used indoors. But the total water use for an average household in Melbourne, Australia is 657 liters per day (240 kiloliters per year).
As of now, most households in Australia are supplied with a clean and sufficient supply of water, but it may not stay this way for long. According to Global Education, an online source indicates that “in the next two decades, water use will increase by 40 percent, and by 2025, nearly two-thirds of the world’s population will live in regions where water supply is under stress.” These are situations that should not be taken lightly. Currently, the effort to conserve water usage throughout the city includes utilizing all available water and reducing water consumption.
Source: Melbourne Water Resources Strategy Committee, June 2001, pages 14, 17.

Water Scarcity

Water is a vital resource for the survival of all living things. Without water, life on planet Earth would not exist. According to recent studies, more than 508 million people in 31 countries face water scarcity in the world today. It is predicted that by the year 2025, the number of people dealing with water scarcity will be over 3 billion a year. If this cycle of overconsumption, pollution, and wastefulness does not subside, our water supply will be severely diminished.

This graph shows much more detail about specific countries that are, or could be, in demand for water in the future.


This is a short poem written by Sir Alan Herbert. He expresses the joy of water and how it is needed by all living organisms on the planet Earth. It sends out a message in that water is not always an available resource, so the need to conserve, reuse, and preserve water is the key to survival.



by Sir Alan Herbert

The rain is plenteous but, by God's decree,
Only a third is meant for you and me;
Two-thirds are taken by the growing things
Or vanish Heavenward on vapour's wings:
Nor does it mathematically fall
With social equity on one and all.
The population's habit is to grow
In every region where the water's low:
Nature is blamed for failings that are Man's,
And well-run rivers have to change their plans.



For more information:

Australian Natural Resources Atlas

Domestic Water Conservation: A Users Guide

Mechanical Engineering

Water Requirements for Domestic Use

Water Scarcity

Water Quotes - Pausing to Think

Water Wiser

What on Earth Do You Know About Water?