In this guide, we provide an overview of the countries that use the most water – in total volume, and also per capita.
We also look at how much water other countries like Canada, Australia and the UK use.
Summary – Which Countries Use The Most Water
- Firstly, there should be differentiation between total water use (volume), and water use per capita
- India has the highest water withdrawal amount in terms of total volume (but has a much lower per capita rate due to the number of people living in India). China and the US are in second and third.
- America has one the highest per capita fresh water withdrawal rates at 2,842 cubic meters per annum, compared to the global average at 1,385 cubic meters
A few additional notes:
- What a country uses their fresh water for is important – whether in agriculture, industry and energy generation, or household.
- The type of water also matters – for example, using sustainable or renewable water like rain water, is generally better than water from sources that aren’t sustainable, renewable or are not environmentally friendly or economically feasible
- High water use isn’t as much of a problem for countries with plentiful water supplies, or the ability to generate fresh water with technology like desalination (although there are pros and cons to desalination and other modern water technology)
Which Countries Use The Most Water In Total Volume?
- India had the largest freshwater withdrawals at over 760 billion cubic metres per year.
- This was followed by China at just over 600 billion m3
- and, the United States at around 480-90 billion m3.
Which Country Uses The Most Water Per Capita?
- When we are talking about per capita (per person withdrawals), some smaller countries like Iceland and Turkmenistan top the list.
Countries That Use The Most Water Per Capita
- United States – The U.S. had the world’s highest per capita water footprint, at 2,842 cubic meters per annum. Meat consumption accounts for 30 percent of the American figure, and sugar consumption is responsible for another 15 percent …
- India – In India, where few people consume much meat, the individual footprint is only 1,089 cubic meters a year.
- Global – The global annual average per capita is 1,385 cubic meters.
- In the UK, the average person uses 39 gallons per day compared to the American’s 110 gallons.
How Much Water Does The United States Use?
- In 2014, the United States used around 480-90 billion m³ of water
- The country has 4.5 percent of the world’s population yet almost 8 percent of its freshwater resources.
- … 70 percent of U.S. counties could face water shortages by 2050 because of climate change, population increase and economic growth.
How Much Water Does China Use?
- In 2014, China used around 600 billion m³ of water
How Much Water Does India Use?
- In 2014, India used around 760 billion m³ of water
How Much Water Does The United Kingdom Use?
- Approximately half the 12.7 billion cubic metres of water abstracted in 2006-07 in England and Wales was for public water supply
- The remainder largely accounted for in cooling uses by the electricity generation sector and in the agricultural sector.
How Much Water Does Canada Use?
- 3.2 billion cubic metres (m3) – the amount of water households used in 2013, down 7.6% from 2011.
- 34.7 billion m3 – the amount of water used by Canadian industries in 2013, up 8.3% from 2011.
- 1.7 billion m3 – the volume of water agricultural producers used to irrigate their crops in 2014.
How Much Water Does Australia Use?
- During 2015-16, an estimated 76,544 gigalitres (GL) of water was extracted from the environment to support the Australian economy.
- A total of 60,702 gigalitres of the total 76,544 gigalitres extracted from the environment was used in-stream (for example hydro-electricity generation) and is a non-consumptive use of water. ‘In stream water’ means the water stays in the source, like a lake or river, and isn’t technically extracted.
- The remainder of self-extracted water that is not for distribution, is used directly by the industry extracting it (5,226 gigalitres), mainly for Agriculture.
- 5226GL is used directly by the industry who extracted it, whilst 10,615GL is extracted to be used by other industries
- Total consumptive use of water in 2015-16 was 16,132 gigalitres. 9,604 gigalitres were consumed by the Agriculture, Forestry, and Fishing industry; 2,014 gigalitres were consumed by the Water Supply, Sewerage and Drainage Services industry; a further 2,615 gigalitres by all other industries; and 1,899 gigalitres by households. This total of 16,132 gigalitres was a decrease of just over 7% from 2014-15, primarily driven by reduced water consumption by Agriculture in New South Wales and Victoria.
- 290 GL is recycled and re-used within the economy
- 65,238GL is discharged back into the environment (of the 76,544GL original water extracted)
- Note that each Australian state uses water slightly differently
What Are The Trends For Global Water Use? (Are We Using More Water, Or Less?)
Due to factors such as a growing population and an increase in water intensive economic activity, fresh water use has increased six fold since 1900, and has tripled over the last 50 years.
1. Hannah Ritchie and Max Roser (2018) – “Water Access, Resources & Sanitation”. Published online at OurWorldInData.org. Retrieved from: ‘https://ourworldindata.org/water-access-resources-sanitation’ [Online Resource]
11. https://water.usgs.gov/edu/saline.html (saline water withdrawal)
12. http://www.abs.gov.au/ausstats/[email protected]/mf/4610.0 (includes a good diagram showing water withdrawal, use and discharge within the Australian economy)
13. http://www.abs.gov.au/ausstats/[email protected]/Latestproducts/4610.0Main%20Features32015-16?opendocument&tabname=Summary&prodno=4610.0&issue=2015-16&num=&view=