Water facts

Minnesotans used 1.4 trillion gallons of water in 2007. The electrical power industry used 839 billion gallons, mostly for pass-through cooling. Public waterworks used 227 billion gallons. Industries – led by mines and paper producers — used 167 billion gallons. Farmers and other users pumped 167 billion gallons for irrigation. None of the totals includes many small – less than 10,000 gallons a day or 1 million gallons a year — private wells that are not required to report their water usage to the state. — Source: Minnesota Department of Natural Resources


Sources of drinking water

The Minnesota Health Department estimates:

  • 1.3 million Minnesotans, or 25 percent of the population, get their drinking water from public water systems draw from surface water sources such as lakes and rivers.
  • 2.7 million, or 52 percent, rely on public water systems that use wells.
  • 1.2 million, or 23 percent, rely on private wells.

Minneapolis, St. Paul and close-in suburbs that buy water from the two cities’ systems get most of their water from the Mississippi River. For more information, click here.


Other water facts

A person can live weeks without food, but only days without water.

University of California at Davis “Scripts,” January 2001. Quoted at “Water Facts,” www.water.org

A person needs 4 to 5 gallons of water per day to survive.

The Sphere Project Handbook “Humanitarian Charter and Minimum Standards in Disaster Response.” Quoted at “Water Facts,” www.water.org.
Les Roberts “Diminishing Standards: How Much Water Do We Need?” {in Forum: Water and War, International Committee of the Red Cross 1988. Quoted at “Water Facts,” www.water.org.

The average American individual uses 100 to 176 gallons of water at home each day. The average African family uses about 5 gallons of water each day.– U . S. Geological Survey Fact Sheet “Water Q&A: Water Use at Home.” Quoted at “Water Facts,” www.water.org
World Resources Institute, 1988-99 and 1996-97. “A Guide to the Global Environment.” Quoted at “Water Facts,” www.water.org.

Every 15 seconds, a child dies from a water-related disease. — Estimate derived from statistics in 2006 United Nations Human Development Report. Quoted at “Water Facts,” www.water.org.

Across the world, water-related diseases are the leading cause of death for children under the age of 5.– World Health Organization. World Health Report 2003. Quoted at “Water Facts,” www.water.org.

At any given time, half the world’s hospital beads are occupied by patient suffering from water-related diseases.– 2006 United Nations Human Development Report. Quoted at “Water Facts,” www.water.org

Nearly 97 percent of the world’s water is saltwater or otherwise undrinkable. Another 2 percent is held in ice caps and glaciers. That leaves just one percent for all of humanity’s needs – agricultural, residential, industrial, etc. – as freshwater.–United States Geological Survey

Additionally, there is approximately the same amount of water on Earth today as there was when the Earth was formed. Water is continually recycled in the Earth’s hydrologic cycle. Just think – the dinosaurs once drank the same water molecules that we drink today.

Water serves several functions. It regulates the temperature of the human body, carries nutrients and oxygen to cells, cushions joints, and protects organs and tissues. The human brain is 75 percent water. Human blood is 83 percent water and bones are 25 percent water.–American Water Works Association

Water is also vital to the health of our planet, regulating Earth’s temperature. Each day, the sun evaporates 1,000,000,000,000 (one trillion) tons of water.–United States Geological Survey

In a 100-year period, an average water molecule spends 98 years in the ocean, 20 months as ice, about two weeks in lakes and rivers, and less than a week in the atmosphere.–United States Geological Survey

In fact, one inch of rain falling on one acre of land is equal to about 27,154 gallons of water.–United States Geological Survey

While this process can purify and clean Earth’s water, when we pollute our freshwater, it can be a long-term problem. Groundwater can stay polluted up to several thousand years. Also consider that:

  • At least 1 billion people must walk three hours or more to obtain drinking water. For example, in Mexico, 15 percent of the population must haul or carry water. Even closer to home, nearly 2 percent of U.S. homes still do not have running water– National Geographic Society
  • Households turn on their faucets an average of 70 times daily. It is estimated that up to 50 percent of the water families use could be saved by implementing simple conservation methods.–National Drinking Water Alliance
  • The 250 million U.S. residents living today have access to about the same amount of water that all 4 million U.S. residents did 200 years ago.–National Drinking Water Alliance
  • If present consumption patterns continue, two out of every three people on Earth will live in water-stressed conditions by the year 2025. –United Nations Environment Program

How to Protect Freshwater


Limit the time you spend watering the lawn, showering, running the garbage disposal and running faucets.

Fix leaky faucets. One drip a second can waste 2,000 gallons a year.

Buy water-efficient plumbing fixtures. If all plumbing fixtures in the United States were replaced with water-conserving fixtures, we could save 3.4 to 8.4 billion gallons of water a day.

Use moderate amounts of low phosphate cleaners and detergents. Eliminate the use of drain cleaners. Use recycled products.


Wash your car on the lawn instead of the driveway. Water that lands on an impermeable surface, such as pavement, flows through the watershed to the nearest body of water and deposits its contaminants. Your lawn, on the other hand, can trap and break down most foreign agents.

Limit the use of lawn fertilizers, and be sure to use only phosphorus-free fertilizer. Most lawns already have sufficient phosphorus and when more is added, it runs through the watershed and causes algae growth in surrounding lakes.


Realize that many human activities affect water quality. Wetlands, groundwater and waterways are destroyed by construction, polluted runoff and spills. Population growth only intensifies these impacts.

Become an educated consumer. Buy recycled, environmentally friendly products.

Learn to recognize and become knowledgeable about aquatic nuisance species. Exotic invaders (such as Eurasian watermilfoil, zebra mussels and thousands more) cause habitat destruction, decrease biological diversity and cause millions of dollars of damage in the United States each year.


Rethink your daily habits and help reduce water pollution and water use. Bike, walk or carpool to help reduce the production of toxic air pollutants that can cause acid rain.

Turn down the water heater temperature and home thermostat to reduce your energy usage and help curb pollutants that cause acid rain.

Finally, share your knowledge with others. Try to remember that our actions have a widespread impact on the lasting quality of freshwater resources. We can, and must, make a difference.


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