Water Consumption Volume

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Water Consumption Volume

Collectively, Americans consume 110.83 million gallons per day and over 40 billion gallons per year. Of that:

  • 33.4% (13.87 billion gallons per year; 38.0 million gallons per day) is consumed as bottled water.
  • 27.6% (11.16 billion gallons per year; 29.7 million gallons per day) is consumed as unfiltered tap water.
  • 38.1% (15.41 billion gallons per year; 42.9 million gallons per day) is consumed as filtered tap water.

While, of course, not evenly spread (e.g., with some not filtering their water at all, some drinking only filtered, some drinking a mix), that means that the average American consumes:

  • A third of a gallon of water per day, or 122.46 gallons per year
  • 0.12 gallons per day, or 42 gallons per year, of bottled water
  • 0.13 gallons per day, or 47.5 gallons per year, of filtered water
  • 0.09 gallons per day, or 32.9 gallons per year, of unfiltered water

All of our data points and calculations are given in detail below.

Total Water Consumption

  • According to the National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys (the abstract of the original report is available here), the average American consumes 3.18 liters of water a day.
  • However, 48% of that intake comes from beverages other than drinking water and another 18% is absorbed from food.
  • This means that only 40%, or about 1.27 liters a day (3.18 x 0.4), of an American's water intake is pure drinking water. This comes to 463.55 liters, or 122.46 gallons, per year.
  • The US population is currently estimated at just under 330.2 million.
  • This gives us a total US drinking water consumption of 419.35 million liters per day (1.27 x 330.2 million) and just over 153 billion liters per year (419.35 million x 365 days).
  • In gallons, that comes to 110.83 million gallons per day and over 40 billion gallons per year.

Bottled Water Consumption

  • America's per capita consumption of bottled water is over 42 gallons per year, meaning that 34.3% (42 / 122.46) of all water consumption is from bottled water and 65.7% is tap water (either filtered or unfiltered).
    • Note that 72% of Americans regularly drink bottled water, which suggests that, on average, those who consume bottled water consume an equal amount of tap water.
  • That means that the average American consumes 0.12 gallons, or 0.45 liters, of bottled water per day (dividing by 365 days).
  • This comes to a total US bottled water consumption of 13.87 billion gallons per year and 38.0 million gallons per day (multiplying both by the US population of 330.2 million).

Filtered/Unfiltered Water Consumption

  • 42% of Americans "do not take any steps to purify their home drinking water." Ergo, 58% do, primarily through fridge filters (24%) and/or filter pitchers (18%).
  • Given that 65.7% of water consumption that comes from the tap (see above), 27.6%(0.657 x 0.42) of all water consumption is unfiltered tap water and 38.1% (0.657 x 0.58) is filtered tap water.
  • Therefore, of the 80.46 gallons of tap water that the average American drinks per year (122.46 gallons - 42 gallons of bottled water), 46.67 gallons are filtered (80.46 x 0.58) and the remaining 33.79 gallons are unfiltered. (Of course, this is not evenly spread; some drink all filtered water, and some drink none.)
  • This comes to 0.13 gallons (46.57 / 365), or about half a liter, of filtered water and 0.09 gallons (33.79 / 365), or just over a third of a liter, of unfiltered water per day.
  • Ergo, Americans collectively drink 15.41 billion gallons of filtered water and 11.16 billion gallons of unfiltered water per year (multiplying each by the US population of 330.2 million).
  • Per day, that comes to 42.9 million gallons of filtered and 29.7 million gallons of unfiltered water (multiplying each by the US population of 330.2 million).
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Filtration Systems - Insights

While the North American market for water filtration systems (of which the US has a lion's share) is known to be approximately $5.8 billion with an expected CAGR of 7.1% over the next several years, prevalence is far more difficult to pin down due to how wide-ranging the costs of commercial systems can be. However, we have identified several market drivers, based largely on how various water filtration system manufacturers position themselves. While such biased sources must be treated with caution, companies generally position themselves based on their real understanding of market forces, and so we have incorporated them into our findings.

The North American Commercial Water Purifier Market

  • According to one market report abstract, the North American water purifier market was worth $5.8 billion in 2018 and is expected to grow at a CAGR of 7.1% over the next several years. We will use that number for the US market as the growth over the last two years and the Canadian share of the North American market can be reasonably expected to cancel each other out.
  • The commercial segment of the global market is 25.3%. As we are unable to determine the North American share, we will assume for the sake of triangulation that this region has a similar commercial share, making the North American Market worth approximately $1.47 billion ($5.8 billion x 0.253).
  • As the cost for a commercial water filtration system can, depending on its type and capacity, range from $45,000 to tens of millions of dollars, we are unable to estimate based on the available public data how many systems are sold per year, let alone prevalence.

While the prevalence of water filtration systems is not available from the public data, we have compiled several findings regarding the drivers of this market below.

Water For Drinking is a Lesser Concern

  • Case studies from companies offering commercial water purification focus on purposes other than water for drinking, such as lowering maintenance costs with a more modern system or detergent costs by softening water used for laundry. Others describe the environmental and the cost benefits of harvesting and filtering gray water for non-drinking purposes.
  • Companies offer filtration systems that range from water softening for cleaning purposes to reverse osmosis systems for drinking and brewing.
  • These same companies are quick to insist that a one-size-fits-all filtration system is not the best for commercial use, offering on-site surveys and analyses of water problems and offering custom solutions based on the client's needs.
  • Ergo, the primary selling points to commercial businesses for a water filtration system are immediate cost savings rather than providing clean drinking water to customers and/or employees. (A possible reason why will be made evident in our "additional findings" section, below.) However, this is not universal, and there are instances of filtration systems being sold based on satisfying customers and employees instead.

Filtered Water as Corporate Health

  • Quench USA recently released the results of a survey that found that 77% of Americans believe that they are not consuming enough water while at work.
  • The primary obstacles cited by Millennials are lack of time to get water (39%), having to pay for it (27%), and disliking the taste of the water at work (19%). Boomers and GenXers cited similar reasons, though with slightly lower percentages.
  • Quench is promoting its water filtration system to employers with these results: "Companies that make it easy and convenient for their people to access and drink more water throughout the day may see their employees’ energy levels, engagement and work capacity increase." It also argues that companies should install filters as a part of their corporate wellness programs, which, notably, have become an $8 billion industry in the US.
  • Store manager Megan Davis reportedly claimed: "After placing FloWater Refill Stations in our store offices early this summer, our employees reported in a survey a significant impact on their health: 76.5% reported an increase in energy and 44% were less fatigued. 50% felt more productive and 44.1% reported they were sleeping better at night."

Sustainability in Hospitality

  • Sustainability is a major selling point. For example, FloWater recently boasted that it had prevented 100 million single-use plastic bottles from entering the environment since launching in 2013. FloWater also claims that its system, installed in the break rooms of ten stores, increased water consumption in 76% of employees.

Restaurants and Bars Are Using More Filtered Sparkling Water

  • Water Natural claims that as alcohol and soda consumption decrease (largely due to health concerns), many restaurants are offering filtered sparkling water alternatives like mocktails and sparkling craft sodas made from natural fruit syrups.

Pharmaceuticals in the Water Supply

  • A growing concern of both governments and individuals in recent years is the increasing amount of pharmaceuticals and hormones that are in our drinking water: "It is very difficult to purify these substances out of wastewater as they attach to the water molecules and persist through purification treatments."
  • Some, including the AP, claim that reverse osmosis "removes virtually all pharmaceutical contaminants but is very expensive for large-scale use."
  • However, others have cast doubts on that claim: "The truth is: only partially. Reverse osmosis works by separating water with contaminants from water without by passing it through membranes. If the molecules of a drug or chemical are smaller than the membrane filters out, then they will pass through."

Additional Information

While not strictly within the criteria of this request, in the course of our research, we found some interesting statistics which show that while a majority of Americans are concerned about the quality of their drinking water, few take an active role in seeking purification methods.

  • While only 12% of Americans say that they never drink tap water, only a third never seek out information about what is in their tap water, indicating widespread concern.
  • Relatedly, 42% of individuals do not purify their home drinking water. Of the remaining 58%:
    • 24% use built-in refrigerator filters.
    • 18% use water filter pitchers.
    • Only 16% use other means, including home filtration systems.
  • The most common reason for having a purification system is that it came with the fridge or house when the individual bought it.
  • Among those who do use water purification systems, only 8% seek third-party certification when seeking a filtration system.