A Single American Can Use as Much Water in a Day as 900 Kenyans

Written by Danielle Nierenberg

The United States is one of the world’s biggest users of water. A single American can use as much water in a day as approximately 900 Kenyans. As a result, water resources in the US are shrinking. In the last five years, there have been water shortages in almost every part of the country, including the worst drought in at least 25 years, which hit 80 percent of the country’s farmland in 2012. Even worse, at least 36 states currently are expecting local, regional, or statewide water shortages, even without drought.

The Natural Resources Defense Council expects water scarcity to affect the American South, West, and Midwest the most. Fourteen states in these regions already have “extreme” or “high” risk of water scarcity. Arizona, Florida, Idaho, Nevada, and Texas face the most danger because they are expected to see some of the largest increases in population by 2030. Water scarcity is about more than lack of water, it’s about lack of drinkable water. It is estimated that as many as 53.6 million Americans have contaminated tap water.

As consumers we can profoundly reduce water waste and consumption through the food choices we make. Recent research from the Barilla Center for Food & Nutrition shows that a healthful and environmentally sustainable diet can go hand in hand.

Here are five steps to save water in the United States:

Eating a little less meat. Switching from a meat-centered weekly menu to a diet rich in vegetables and grains could save 2,500 liters of water a day! And eating grass-fed and locally-raised meat, eggs, and dairy products can also save water.

Steam veggies instead of boiling. In general, steaming vegetables uses less water than boiling, and, according to a study in the Journal of Food Quality, it’s more nutritious. For example, boiling corn on the cob in a large pot may use 6-8 quarts of water, whereas steaming only uses 1-2 quarts. If you must boil, save the water for your garden, soup stock, or use it to clean pots.

Provide support for small-scale, family farms. Agricultural subsidies in the US disproportionately support large-scale agribusinesses over the small-scale producers who are more likely to be engaged in sustainable food production, and may be challenged by drought or commodity price fluctuations. Changes in government support services could reduce this deficit and improve food and water security.

Streamline water use in home gardens. During the summer months nearly 40 percent of household water is used for watering lawns and gardens, the EPA reports. National Geographic suggests incorporating native plants into your garden that are adapted to the local climate and often require less water. Manually watering plants, instead of using automatic sprinklers, cuts water use by 33 percent, according to the EPA. Consumers can also buy self-watering planters, or construct rain barrels that can save you up to 1,300 gallons of water.

Reduce food waste. The UN Food and Agriculture Organization reports that nearly one third of all food produced for human consumption is wasted throughout production, storage, transportation, consumption and disposal. Learn about the shelf life of the foods you buy and find out how long you can store food in your freezer. Other ways to reduce food waste are only buying what you plan to eat, using leftovers to create new meals, or donating food you can’t use to soup kitchens.

This post was originally published by the Earth Island Journal.


christine robertson

Those of you that say that it is not your responsibility to save water because you live in the US and not in Kenya are being totally selfish. Water is a limited resource and not to be wasted anywhere. Until you suffer a real drought where when you turn on your taps and the water that you take for granted is not there then you have no idea how precious it is. No water no life. Think about what you are doing next time you stand at the sink brushing your teeth with the tap running and that precious commodity running down the drain disappearing into the sewers.

Biby C.
Biby C5 years ago

There aren't many countries on this planet that hasn't got a water problem. It's either too much or too little and there's no way to tell when you're going to have which. Contamination of our lakes and rivers compounds the problem. And global warming is not helping. Grim picture? You bet!

stacey t.
Stacey Toda5 years ago

Some good ideas, thank-you

janice b.
jan b5 years ago

The USA has it's own safe water-problems without worrying about Kenya. America's Dwindling Water Supply has made headline news. We shouldn't have all the world's problems on our shoulders.

Margarita G.
Margarita G5 years ago

Good tips! Thanks!

Ali G.
Ali G5 years ago

How can people be said to have responded to a comment I posted, but which hasn't YET (2 days later!!) become visible?

Tammy Baxter
Tammy B5 years ago

wow! thanks!

Helen Wu
Helen Wu5 years ago


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Past Member 5 years ago


E. J.
Past Member 5 years ago