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  • Origin: Where does the drinking water come from? What lakes or rivers are there? How often does it rain?
  • Availability: Does the country have plenty of drinking water or is it scarce?
  • Infrastructure: How widespread is access to safe drinking water and sanitation? What condition are pipes and sewers in?
  • Water usage: What is drinking water in this country used for? How much does every person use per day?
  • Projects: What projects regarding drinking water (supply or demand management) are planned, on-going or completed in this country?
  • Opportunities and threats: What are the biggest problems facing this country in the future? What is being done to solve them?
  • Norms and regulations: How is drinking water regulated? Are there efficiency standards for water-using appliances?
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United States of America

Generally speaking, freshwater resources in the United States of America are immense. You can find some of the world's largest lakes here: Lake Superior (sharing a shoreline with Canada), Lake Huron, Lake Michigan and Lake Erie to name but a few.

However, demand for water exceeds supply in some regions at least some of the time. The 50 U.S. States vary greatly in terms of factors relating to water supply and use, be it climate, precipitation rates, demand for water, or its origin.

California is currently in the grip of a severe drought which has made headlines around the world. Texas is suffering a similar fate, as are several other regions, especially in the West.

Groundwater and surface water
Groundwater is a vital part of the water supply. According to the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), it accounts for more than 20% of all water withdrawn in the States. Thus, an estimated 79.3 billion gallons (300 billion litres) of groundwater is pumped every day 1.
While more water systems in the United States have groundwater than surface water as a source (approx. 147,000 vs. 14,500), more people drink from a surface water system (195 million vs. 101,400) according to figures by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) 2. This is because drinking water in urban, densely-populated areas tends to come from surface water sources.

Desalination in the United States
Desalination plants are gaining importance as a water source. In 2005, the daily production capacity for desalinated water in the United States amounted to 1,600 million gallons (6.06 billion litres) 3.
The Tampa Bay Seawater Desalination Plant in Florida is currently the largest of its kind in the United States. It produces 25 million gallons (94.6 million litres) of drinking water a day, thus covering up to 10% of the region's needs 4.


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Does the country have plenty of drinking water or is it scarce?

Availability

Freshwater is unevenly distributed in the United States, as it is in many parts of the world. While some regions get plenty, in others demand exceeds supply at least some of the time. The total available amount of renewable freshwater in the United States was 9,044 cubic metres per person in 2011 1.


For the entire United States, excluding Hawaii and Alaska, the average amount of precipitation per year is around 30 inches (762 millimetres). The driest state, Nevada, receives only around 9.5 inches (241.3 millimetres) 2.

Groundwater depletion
A USGS report estimates that overall, less than 10 per cent of the natural groundwater recharge in the United States is withdrawn every day. The issue is that in some regions, groundwater is pumped at a faster rate than can be replaced naturally. This is called groundwater depletion, and has been happening in the Great Plains and the Desert Southwest for many years. Across the United States between 1900 and 2008, total groundwater depletion amounted to approximately 1,000 cubic kilometers 3.


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How widespread is access to safe drinking water and sanitation? What condition are pipes and sewers in?

Infrastructure

In 2011, 100 per cent of the urban and 94 per cent of the rural population in the United States had access to an improved water source, while access to improved sanitation facilities was universal 1.

Around 85 per cent of Americans get their drinking water from a public or private water utility, while around 15 per cent pump groundwater from their own wells 2.

Water infrastructure: poor rating
The drinking water infrastructure is assessed by the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) every four years. It was graded D+ (meaning poor) in 2013 3. ASCE estimates that there are 1 million miles (1.6 million kilometers) of water mains in the United States, many of them more than 100 years old and in need of replacement; 240,000 water main breaks take place in the United States every year 4. The aging infrastructure has been earmarked by EPA as one of the nation’s top water priorities 5.

The estimated leakage rate is 13 per cent across the United States, and for every kilometer of pipe 10 cubic meters of water per day are lost due to leakage 6.


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What is drinking water in this country used for? How much does every person use per day?

Water usage

Every five years, the USGS publishes a report on US water withdrawals. The latest available figures are for 2010: 1

  • Total water withdrawals in the United States were approximately 355 billion gallons (1.34 billion cubic meters) per day.
  • Of this amount, 306 billion gallons (1.16 billion cubic meters) per day was freshwater.
  • Water withdrawn for public supply was 42 billion gallons (200 million cubic meters) per day.
  • Average domestic water use per person per day was 88 gallons (333 liters).

According to EPA, the average American family pays about U$474 each year for water and sewage charges, and an additional U$230 per year on energy to heat water 2.


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What projects regarding drinking water (supply or demand management) are planned, on-going or completed in this country?

Projects

Projects regarding drinking water in the United States fall into two main categories: those aiming to increase the available water supply, and those established to reduce demand for water.

Some projects, such as the U.S. Drought Monitor, monitor the current water situation. The U.S. Drought Monitor is produced in partnership between the National Drought Mitigation Center at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, the United States Department of Agriculture, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.


Drought monitor United States


The USGS's National Water-Use Information Program compiles a report every five years to track freshwater use in the USA. The latest report, with usage figures for 2010, was released in late 2014.

Increase water supply
Many coastal regions pin their hopes on seawater desalination to increase freshwater supplies. One of the largest plants is Carlsbad in San Diego (California), where funding has been secured and construction is now under way. Upon completion in 2016, the plant will produce 50 million gallons of water a day, and by 2020 is expected to cover 7 per cent of the region's freshwater needs 1.

As with other desalination plant projects, critics have voiced concern over energy consumption. They have also contended that Carlsbad will only cover a small part of the region's water needs, yet at a very high cost to water users 2.

Reduce demand for water
WaterSense is a partnership program sponsored by EPA and was started in 2006. It helps households save water and energy by making it easy to identify water-efficient products and services. In order to be granted the WaterSense label, all water efficiency and performance requirements must be met. WaterSense products are generally at least 20 per cent more water-efficient than similar products in the marketplace.


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What are the biggest problems facing this country in the future? What is being done to solve them?

Opportunities and Threats

Climate change is widely considered the biggest threat to freshwater availability in the United States. According to a 2003 report by the U.S. Government Accountability Office, even under normal conditions, water managers in 36 states anticipated shortages in localities, regions, or state-wide in the following ten years 1.
This prediction has come true, with the drought of 2012/2013 affecting counties in 36 states 2. Droughts now and in future are likely to hit hardest the 195 million Americans who drink water from a surface water system.

Contaminants in drinking water?
There are concerns regarding drinking water quality and contaminant levels, especially for private wells which are not monitored by the federal state.


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How is drinking water regulated? Are there efficiency standards for water-using appliances?

Norms and Regulations

Public water systems are under federal regulation as part of the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA). There are federal guidelines for maximum contaminant levels in private water systems; however they are not enforced at national level.

LEED is a construction industry standard for green buildings, taking the whole lifecycle into account. Different rating systems have been established for a variety of building projects, from new construction to commercial interiors. Projects earn points towards a LEED certification on a wide range of criteria. One of them is reducing indoor water use by fitting water-efficient fixtures and appliances.
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    09:13, 19 Aug 2016Aline T.Hong Kong
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    13:43, 22 Apr 2015watersaving.comSwitzerland
    09:25, 12 Nov 2014watersaving.comSwitzerland
    09:25, 12 Nov 2014watersaving.comSwitzerland
    09:25, 12 Nov 2014watersaving.comSwitzerland
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