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By the Numbers

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Blog art croppedEric Herman

For all of its ubiquitous nature, it’s fair to say that most people in the industrialized world take water for granted. Since the introduction of public water treatment in the early 20th Century, our supply has been so safe and reliable that we carelessly assume it will always be there. Clean water flows out of the tap, and the bad water goes down the sink or is flushed away.

Somewhere in the back of our mind we know where water we consume comes from and goes to. We assume, some sort of massive treatment system, but we don’t give it much if any thought. Yet, our very existence depends on that massive and largely hidden infrastructure. Maybe it’s time we think differently about this magnificent molecule that rules our lives!

I’ve personally found that simply knowing some deeper facts about water fosters an appreciation of its all-encompassing nature and infinite complexity. The available factoids are vast, indeed, and easily found online and in books and other publications; but, you do need to dig a little to unearth these watery gems.

Here are some choice examples from my own personal collection:

q The chemical name for water is dihydrogen monoxide.

q It takes about 6,800 gallons of water to grow, and otherwise create, one day’s food for a family of four.

q Americans flush 5.7 billion gallons of water every day.

q In the U.S. generating electricity requires 201 billion gallons of water each day.

q One of every six gallons of water pumped into a public utility main in the U.S. is lost to leakage.

q It takes 20 gallons of water to create one pint of beer.

q Manufacturing one ton of steel requires 300 tons of water.

q Unsafe water kills 200 children every hour throughout the world.

q Science does not know where our water came from or how long it’s been here.

q There is an estimated 326 trillion gallons of water on earth.

q If the entire world’s supply of water fit into a four-liter container, the fresh water would equal about a tablespoon.

q Ice in Antarctica contains 90% of the world’s fresh water.

q A typical Thanksgiving dinner for eight requires more than 42,000 gallons of water to grow, raise and prepare.

q Rainfall accounts for 60% of the world’s crop irrigation.

q According to the United Nations, two thirds of the world’s population is projected to face water scarcity by 2025.

q In developing nations, 80% of all illnesses are caused by either unclean water or a lack of water.

q One gallon of wine requires 1,008 gallons of water.

q All water can be returned to a purified state. The question is how?

References available upon request.

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