US Uses Less Water Than It Did a Generation Ago As Global Concern Grows Over Scarcity

US Uses Less Water Than It Did a Generation Ago As Global Concern Grows Over Scarcity

Image courtesy of SABMiller

The United States is using less water than it did 35 years ago, which is a good thing given the rising concern about water issues among investors and stakeholders worldwide, new information released this week shows.

According to a report by the U.S. Geological Survey (pdf), researchers found that the country apparently was using less water in 2005 than it had during peak years of 1975 and 1980, and has been relatively stable -- even though the population had grown 30 percent in the past 25 years, Science Daily reported.

In 2005, Americans were using 410 billion gallons a day, slightly less than in 2000. The drop was attributed to increased use of more efficient irrigation systems and improved alternative technologies at power plants, because during the same period the amount of water tapped for the public supply had steadily increased -- as it had since 1950.

Forty-nine percent of the 410 billion gallons was used to produce electricity at thermoelectric power plants. Thirty-one percent for the irrigation, 9 percent for public supply and 9 percent for self-supplied industrial, livestock, aquaculture, mining and rural domestic use, the USGS report said.

Water-related topics are "rising fast to the top of the list of current or potential longer-term risks posed to corporations in the view of a growing number of global investors, their coalitions and the asset managers they hire," the Governance & Accountability Institute posted Tuesday in its online newsletter, Insights-edge

"Expect water to be among the topics addressed at the upcoming UN Climate Change Conference (December 8 - 18 in Copenhagen)," the newsletter said.

The newsletter also recapped efforts, which initially made news this past summer, by the Food Ethics Council and the health and food advocacy group Sustain for labels on product packaging that shows the water footprint, the "hidden" amount of water used in the manufacture of foods and beverages.

GreenBiz has reported for some time that water is fast becoming the "new carbon."

A number of initiatives to scrutinize water use and determine ways to reduce it emerged this past summer in the weeks surrounding World Water Week.

For example, SABMiller, a leader in water footprinting and sustainability efforts in recent years, declared September a stewardship month to promote responsible water use in its plants and beyond. Yesterday, the company provided an update on its

SABMiller is working further with the World Wildlife Fund to launch Water Futures, a partnership that intends to address water scarcity in several key operating countries, such as Peru, Tanzania, South Africa and Ukraine.

SABMiller also will work with the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Technische Zusammenarbeit (GTZ), a German agency for technical cooperation that acts on behalf of the Federal German Ministry of Economic Cooperation and Development. The ministry seeks to provide solutions for political, economic, ecological and social development.

Image courtesy of SABMiller.