New Research Shows Most Americans are Unaware of Their Daily Water Consumption

According to new research conducted by global research agency Opinium on behalf of American Water, Americans underestimate the amount of what they use daily by 90%. Most believe they use less than 100 gallons of water each day, when the actual number is more than 2,000 gallons on average (according to Water Footprint Network). This figure considers the water consumed by individuals directly (e.g. dishwashing or watering the lawn) and indirectly (e.g. the water required to produce food). With the majority of Americans underestimating their own personal water usage, the study also found a lack of awareness for water consumption in specific areas of their lives as well.

Ahead of the annual observance of the Value of Water’s Imagine a Day Without Water on October 21st, the survey asked a nationally representative sample of more than 2,000 Americans to reflect on their daily water consumption and how much water is required to produce many common items we consume daily. The findings revealed that – regardless of gender, homeownership, or age – Americans are largely unaware of just how large their water footprint is and the variety of ways in which water impacts their everyday lives.

“We all know water is a vital part of our daily lives for drinking and basic hygiene, but we often don’t consider the water needed to produce the foods we eat or even the clothes we wear,” said Dr. Lauren Weinrich, Principal Scientist, Water Research & Development at American Water. “As part of our commitment to provide clean, safe, reliable drinking water for our customers, it’s important to raise public awareness of the true value of water. During this year’s Imagine a Day Without Water we want to help educate our customers on the importance of water, but also ways they can participate in the efforts to support water efficiency and conservation.”

The study revealed Americans’ various underestimations of water consumption for products they likely use every day:

  • Almost 90 million Americans believe it takes no water at all to make a pair of jeans. In reality, a fresh pair of jeans requires around 2,600 gallons to make.
  • It takes 713 gallons of water to make a new cotton t-shirt to pair with those jeans. Americans believe it takes just 136.
  • Americans believe it takes 158 gallons of water to produce a smartphone, whereas it is more than 3,400.

With fall right around the corner, Americans are looking forward to enjoying the season’s special events – like gathering around the table for holiday dinners. However, most people aren’t aware of just how much water goes into producing these fall-favorites. Americans drastically underestimated the water needed to make:

  • One 16-pound holiday turkey takes 4,688 gallons vs. estimated 158 gallons
  • A pecan pie takes 1,068 gallons vs. the estimated 135 gallons; and a pumpkin pie takes 458 gallons vs. the estimated 135 gallons
  • The traditional green bean casserole – with fried onions on top! – takes 547 gallons of water to hit the holiday dinner table vs. the estimated 116 gallons

Key Findings:

By Gender

  • Men, on average, estimate higher water consumption than women,140 gallons vs. 60 gallons, but neither group estimated anywhere near American’s calculated water footprint of 2,000 gallons per day

Generational Gaps

  • Gen Z respondents, ages 18-24, had the closest estimate at 365 gallons, however, this is still more than 1,500 gallons off. The average estimate drops off steeply for Millennials, ages 25-40, at 36 gallons and remains low throughout older generations as well
  • 77% of Boomers, ages 57 and up, stop to appreciate access to clean drinking water very/fairly often with 48% of Gen Z respondents reporting they do the same

Homeowners vs. Renters

  • Homeowners estimate their consumption at nearly 130 gallons, compared to renters who believe they use only 33 gallons of water each day.
  • The actual water consumption for homeowners and renters, on average, is 1,188 gallons and 818 gallons, respectively.

Conservation Habits

Nine in 10 Americans are likely to try at least one new habit to conserve water in 2022, with little resistance to incorporate water-conserving habits in the coming year:

  • 89% of Americans likely to try at least one eco-friendly habit
  • 64% of Americans are most likely to wait for a full load to do laundry
  • 62% purchase local produce
  • 58% use cold water to brush their teeth

Although Americans are willing to incorporate lifestyle changes to conserve more water, this isn’t always the case in practice. The most common wasteful activity Americans do is leave the faucet on while brushing their teeth, with one in five (19%) doing this every day. Assuming people are brushing their teeth twice a day for a minute each time, this would waste three gallons of water each day or 1.5 gallons each minute. With nearly 20% of the U.S. adults doing this daily, that means around 149.9 million gallons of water are lost every day to this easily changeable routine.

“By making small lifestyle changes and reducing your own water footprint – even by simply turning off the faucet while brushing your teeth or washing a full load of dishes each day – we can make a big difference,” said Weinrich.

American Water is committed to meeting customers' water needs while simultaneously saving 15% in water delivered per customer, by 2035, compared to a 2015 baseline. Over the past five years, American Water has already accomplished a 4.3% reduction in water delivered per customer. American Water’s full Sustainability Report can be found on the company’s website.

For more information on American Water and how you can reduce your water footprint, visit amwater.com.

About American Water
With a history dating back to 1886, American Water is the largest and most geographically diverse U.S. publicly traded water and wastewater utility company. The company employs more than 7,000 dedicated professionals who provide regulated and market-based drinking water, wastewater and other related services to 15 million people in 46 states. American Water provides safe, clean, affordable and reliable water services to our customers to make sure we keep their lives flowing. For more information, visit amwater.com and follow American Water on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.