Water facts: 40 stats that will blow your mind

Everybody knows that water is important. But why is it so crucial to life on earth? It turns out that water is a liquid with a unique structure, which helps living beings to function and the planet to stay within a consistent natural cycle.

Billions of dollars are spent bottling water, treating it for contaminants, using it for pollution-generating industries, and funding programs to protect it, all at the same time. Our relationship with H2O is both complex and fundamental, as these 40 water facts show:

Water pollution facts

1. Alaska contains 40% of the USA’s surface water.

Many Alaskans draw from this huge water source using private wells, leading to frequent contamination. The state regularly records around ten times the average number of drinking water violations.

2. The Hudson River dumps an estimated 300 million microplastic fibers into the Atlantic ocean per day.

Microplastics are small pieces of plastic between 0.001 and 5 mm that are easily transported in water.

3. There are more than five trillion pieces of plastic floating in the sea.

Experts also believe that plastic is also the most common type of pollution debris in the Great Lakes.

4. 10% of people in the continental US don’t have regular access to on-demand safe drinking water.

While nine out of ten Americans rarely have to think about their tap supply, a surprisingly large number live in places where they can’t trust the safety of their water at some or all of the time. Often, this is due to the presence of heavy metals, industrial chemicals, or harmful bacteria.

5. As many as 110 million Americans may be using drinking water contaminated with forever chemicals.

Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) otherwise known as forever chemicals, are a relatively new public health concern, but they’ve slowly been seeping into our water and soil for decades. Used in many commercial products and industrial processes, these water-repellent compounds are thought to cause fertility and developmental issues if regularly consumed.

6. Chlorine treatment is used in more than 60% of community water systems in the United States.

Drinking chlorine is considered safe in small amounts, but the bacteria-killing chemical does have an offputting smell and taste when compared to other treatment methods such as ozonation.

Water human body facts

Water and the human body

7. The human body is made of around 70% water.

Men tend to have a higher percentage than women, while newborn babies can be up to 78% H2O (usgs.gov).

8. Our lungs are 83% water, our kidneys are 79% water, and our brains are 73% water.

Even hard parts of the body like bones are about 31% water (usgs.gov).

9. Humans should drink about 2 liters, or 8 glasses, of water per day.

However, the exact amount depends on the outside temperature and humidity, a person’s body weight, and how much they exert themselves. Other types of drinks, like coffee and tea, also count towards daily hydration.

10. When a person exercises, they can sweat up to 600 ml of water per day.

Humans also sweat small amounts all the time. When sitting, people can lose 250 ml of water due to perspiration (journals.lww.com).

11. The sensation of thirst begins when 2% of a person’s body weight is lost.

Even mild dehydration can impair our ability to think clearly (journals.lww.com).

12. Dehydration sets off a chain reaction that begins with falling blood pressure.

A lack of water in the body lowers volume and pressure, which has the effect of concentrating salts and toxins in the bloodstream. This puts stress on the kidneys and other organs. (journals.lww.com).

water facts about money

Facts about the market for water

13. Americans spent over $1.5 billion on sparkling water drinks at restaurants in 2018.

While sodas remain fair more popular, growth in the demand for flavored seltzer water has outpaced all other types of non-alcoholic beverages (nytimes.com).

14. Thanks to COVID-19 hoarding, sales of bottled water were 57% higher in March 2020 than in the previous March.

Despite concerns about the environmental impact of the bottled water industry, sales of bottled water continue to increase each year.

15. California helps the US to rank 2nd for global water consumption.

As a drought-prone yet intensively farmed state, California uses around 9% of the USA’s daily water consumption and has spent $2.6 billion on water transactions between 2012 and 2019 (cnn.com).

16. Water is now being traded on the stock market.

With frequent water shortages looking more likely in the future, water futures can now be bought and sold in the same way as gold or oil on the Chicago Mercantile Exchange (cnn.com).

Weird water facts

17. If ice was 9% denser it would sink and cause the oceans to freeze.

Ice floats on water thanks to the way that hydrogen bonds are arranged, causing the molecules to push apart and lowering the density.

18. Water is the key indicator of alien life.

All life forms that we know about on earth require water to exist, and because of this astrobiologists assume that alien life is most likely to be found on planets with traces of water. NASA has a policy of ‘following the water’ for this reason (nasa.gov).

19. Over the course of 100 years, a water molecule spends just a week in the atmosphere.

It will spend around two weeks in river systems, 20 months as ice, and 98 years in the ocean.

20. One drop of ocean water can be home to millions of life forms.

Bacteria, viruses, plankton, and marine offspring can all live in a spec of saline water.

21. Water has little to no taste, but it does have a smell.

Research suggests that up to 80% of the flavor we’d normally put down to taste, actually comes from the olfactory system. When we drink water, we use this sense to identify dissolved minerals and chemicals, like calcium, chlorine, and sulfur.

22. Water naturally occurs as a liquid, gas, and solid.

Scientists don’t know of any other substance that exists in all three states in the natural environment.

Water footprint facts

23. It takes about 150 liters of water to produce one pint of beer.

For the beans that go into a cup of coffee, you’ll need 200 liters.

24. 80% of California’s water supply is dedicated to farming.

Every almond grown in the state’s vast almond plantations can require up to a gallon of water (paesta.psu.edu).

25. Producing a single ounce of beef requires a whopping 106 gallons of water.

While many plants can be water-intensive, the water consumption involved in livestock production is far higher. (paesta.psu.edu).

26. 80% of the electricity exported to the US from Canada comes from hydropower.

Thanks to its increased efficiency in comparison to fossil fuel burning, hydroelectric power plants in Canada are able to provide 60% of countries electricity, as well as exporting large amounts down south (waterpowercanada.ca).

27. Running an average American household requires over 300 liters of water per day.

While some of that amount comes out of the taps, the majority is used up by showers, toilets, dishwashers, washing machines, and garden sprinklers (epa.gov).

Water access facts

28. Humans have access to little more than 1% of the world’s water for drinking.

The rest is locked into ice caps and glaciers or held as salinated seawater.

29. By 2017, 90% of people around the world had access to a source of drinking water within 15 minutes of their homes.

71% had on-demand, in-home access (who.int).

30. By 2025, water shortages will affect half of the world’s population in some form.

According to experts, many more people will be required to engage in water management practices to prevent droughts (who.int).

31. Water contamination and shortages contribute to the death of 829,000 people per year, including 297,000 children.

The vast majority of these deaths are due to dehydration and diarrhea. When water becomes scarce, basic hygiene practices like handwashing are forfeited, leading to the spread of disease (who.int).

Water technology facts

32. ‘Sponge cities’ in China soak up excess groundwater to minimize the risk of flooding.

Using rooftop gardens, underground storage systems, permeable sidewalks, extra green space, and reintroduced wetlands, many Chinese cities are creating sponge-like environments that increase water absorption and reduce pollution (earth.org).

33. Ultraviolet light can deactivate waterborne viruses.

Shining high-powered UV lamps through water can disrupt the cellular structure of microorganisms living there, such as giardia and E-coli, making it safe to drink. Some of the latest home and travel water filters use this technology to create drinking water without passing it through a traditional filter.

34. Reverse osmosis water filters have membranes with pores that are 0.00000004 inches wide.

These filters, which are sometimes used to turn seawater into a drinkable liquid, can be capable of filtering water down to a molecular level.

35. 71.5% of Amazon’s most popular water filters aren’t certified by the biggest water quality organization.

NSF International is a major globally recognized independent organization that sets standards for safe and effective water filter products. After cross-referencing over 550 of Amazon’s top water filter products with NSF international’s Certified Product and Service Listings, we found that only 102 cited a relevant NSF/ANSI standard that matched their filtering claims.

Facts about water’s power

36. The largest waterfall on earth carries 123 million cubic feet of water per second—and is underwater.

While Angel Falls in Venezuela is often called the largest land-based waterfall, the underwater Denmark Strait cataract is the planet’s biggest waterfall. It’s caused by differing water temperatures flowing over a huge, 11,500 ft drop on the seabed (earthsky.org).

37. The Mississippi River has the fourth largest watershed in the world, covering 40% of the continental US.

The river releases over 16,000 cubic meters of water into the Gulf of Mexico every second.

38. The Marianas Trench in the Pacific ocean has an atmospheric pressure of around 1000 times that of sea level.

At this pressure, which is equivalent to eight tons for every square inch, even water itself takes on a different, more ice-like structure (nasa.gov).

39. Hydropower plants convert water’s potential energy to kinetic energy, then from mechanical energy to electrical energy.

Most hydroelectric plants use large reservoirs and dams to generate kinetic energy in water as it’s released and falls (waterpowercanada.ca).

40. There are 321,003,271 cubic miles of water in the Earth’s oceans.

This is equivalent to around 352 quintillion, or 352,000,000,000,000,000,000, gallons of water (oceanservice.noaa.gov).