World Water Day – Which industries consume the most water and why should we care?

by Mar 22, 2021Sustainable world days2 comments

World Water Day

                March 22 is World Water Day, a day dedicated to reminding people about the importance of water. The United Nations has a theme for 2023: Accelerating change to address the water and sanitation crisis. Unfortunately, dysfunction throughout the water cycle is hampering progress on various global issues, including health, hunger, gender equality, education, and industry. In 2015, the world committed to Sustainable Development Goal 6, which promised safely managed water and sanitation for all by 2030. However, we are currently far off-track to achieve this goal, with billions of people and many institutions lacking safe water and toilets. Governments need to work much faster to meet this goal, but it is not a problem that they can solve alone. Everyone needs to take action to address this issue because water affects us all.

At 2030 Builders, we have a deep passion for reducing our water footprint and helping the industries we serve to do the same. We believe that every company has the power to make a real difference by taking action to change the way they use, consume, and manage water. That’s why we want to help companies implement these changes by working with their employees, distribution networks, suppliers, or any other stakeholders they may want to involve.

Now, let’s delve deeper into the issue of water scarcity and look at which industries consume the most water.

World Water Day                    
World Water Day is a reminder of how precious water is.

The issue of water scarcity

          There’s plenty of water on Earth – 71% of our planet’s surface is covered with water. However, the freshwater for our basic survival needs only represents 3% of the world’s water. Of that, most freshwater is unavailable, as it exists in glaciers, polar ice caps, atmosphere, and soil. This leaves us with 0.5% of Earth’s water fresh and ready for us to use.                                                                           As a result, two-thirds of people on our Blue Planet live in areas where access to freshwater is an issue. Water scarcity impacts every continent and, as a result, 1.1 billion people do not have access to water.   By 2025, it is possible that almost half of the global population will reside in regions encountering water shortage. Within the next decade, nearly 700 million individuals might be forced to relocate due to severe water scarcity. In addition, by 2040, almost a quarter of all children around the world are expected to live in locations experiencing extreme water pressure. This is mainly a result of climate change, growing population, and land-use change.                                                                                                            
water scarcity                                            
By 2025, 1.8 billion people face water scarcity.

Which industries consume the highest volumes of water?

                                                                        All industries have a certain water footprint. However, let’s get an overview of the ones that require the biggest amounts of freshwater.                                                                          


                                                                        70% of the world’s freshwater is used for agriculture. In Europe, this sector requires 44% of freshwater resources. This is due to agriculture’s water use for irrigation, fertiliser and pesticide application, crop cooling, and frost control.                                                                           As a result of the fertilisers and insecticides used in agriculture, it is also a major source of water pollution.                                                                          
water for agriculture industry                                            
Agriculture uses 70% of the world’s freshwater.
                                                                        When it comes to the thirstiest crops, wheat, corn, rice, cotton, and sugarcane take the lead. Nuts are also a source of concern, especially since 74% of irrigated nuts are grown in regions facing water stress, like India, China, Pakistan, the Mediterranean area, and the US.                                                                          

Fashion industry

water consumed by the fashion industry
                                                                        As we previously covered in more details, apart from being a significant source of water pollution, the fashion industry also uses considerable amounts of freshwater.                                                                           The 79 billion cubic metres of freshwater used yearly by the fashion industry secured its place as the second most water-consuming industry in the world. This is mainly because of cotton’s high water demand of cotton, the main material in our clothes.                                                                           It takes 7,000 litres of water to produce one pair of jeans, the same amount one individual drinks in 5-6 years. A T-shirt requires 2,700 litres of water, enough for a person to keep thirst away for almost 3 years.                                                                           Do you want to learn more about World Water Day engagement? Our platform is the solution!                                                                          
water consumed to produce one t-shirt

Energy industry

                                                                        A study by E. S. Spang et al. (2014) estimated that the world’s energy production consumes approximately 52 billion cubic meters of freshwater each year.                                                                           This significant water volume comes mainly from power plants needing it for their cooling processes. This technology is characteristic of fossil fuel and nuclear power plants. Moreover, bioenergy crops like sugarcane and rapeseed use large quantities of water for cultivating the plants. Processing the ethanol or biodiesel they generate also requires some high volumes of water.                                                                           This is yet another reason to speed up the transition towards renewable energy sources likes wind and solar.                                                                          

Meat industry

                                                                        Generally speaking, animal products like meat, dairy, and eggs are linked to higher environmental impacts than fruits and vegetables. This includes bigger levels of greenhouse gas emissions, land-use change, and water use.                                                                           Meat production is a separate industry, but we have to remember it is intimately linked to agriculture. Some estimates say that one-third of the freshwater used for agriculture is a result of meat production.                                                                           Beef is by far the most water-intensive food on our plates, followed by lamb, pork, goat, poultry, eggs, and cheese. It should be noted that other sources include nuts as the second-highest water consumer in the food industry.                                                                           It takes 15,000 litres of water to produce 1 kilogram of beef and over 10,000 litres to bring 1 kilogram of sheep meat to our tables.                                                                          
water used by the meat industry for 1kg of beef

Beverage industry

                                                                        According to the Beverage Industry Environmental Roundtable, 19 companies reported a total water use of 746 billion litres in 2017.                                                                           This would be enough for over 1,081 million people to drink in one year. So to put things into perspective, the water used by 19 beverage companies would be enough to end the thirst of the ones who don’t have access to water.                                                                           However, this report only takes into account a very limited part of the industry’s water footprint: the water used in the production processes, not the entire amount of water needed for the beverages (from cultivating the ingredients to manufacturing the bottles they come it).                                                                           Looking at all the water that goes into beverages, from growing the necessary ingredients to packaging, the values are surprising, to say the least. It takes 350 litres of water to produce one litre of soda, while one litre of beer requires 155 litres of freshwater.                                                                          
water consumed by the becerage industry for 1 litre of soda

Construction, mining, and car industries

                                                                        Finally, here are some thought-provoking facts about how these three industries consume water. In Europe, the mining and quarrying industry is responsible for about 4% of the water consumption, while the construction industry for around 3.4%.                                                                           It takes around 148,000 litres of water to produce a car. Producing one tire only requires close to 2,000 litres.                                                                           According to Treehugger, a ton of cement requires over 5,100 litres of water, while a ton of steel needs almost 235,000 litres. A single board of lumber takes 20 litres to grow.                                                                           2030 Builders can guide you on your journey in World Day engagement!                                                                          
water to produce one car                                            
Manufacturing one car requires around 148,000 litres of water.

Water is an invaluable resource

                                                                        It is hard to read these water consumption figures and imagine people dying of thirst every day. World Water Day is an opportunity for companies to challenge their consumption patterns and environmental targets. It is also a good time for organisations to remind their employees about their promises, engage them in taking action, and change mindsets and behaviours on the topic.                                                                           2030 Builders is determined to help your organisation reduce its water consumption, by focusing on ways to reduce water use, recycle the utilised volumes, and on alternative low-water solutions. We want to raise the employees’ awareness of water scarcity and challenge them to find ways of reducing their organisation’s water use, while also committing to decreasing their personal water footprint.                                                                           Find out how to engage your employees in sustainability on your journey towards a more conscious approach to water consumption here.                                                                          
Access to clean water changes everything; it’s a stepping-stone to development.” – Kathryn Reid, 2020, ‘Global water crisis: Facts, FAQs, and how to help’, World Vision
  1. Dr Arivalagan Arumugam

    Quite interesting article. But we need to add more industries like pulp and paper, paint, sugar industry, chemical industry, pharmaceutical, dairy, etc

    • Cassie Powell

      We are glad you found this content interesting! We completely agree that this is a problem many industries are contributing to. Thank you for your comment and the reminder of some of the other industries that are major water consumers. It definitely highlights the need for establishing a culture of sustainability within organisations in these fields!


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