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5.6. The consumption of water

The consumption of water

We need water to drink and for many more activities that we humans carry out. But although there is plenty of water, only a small part of fresh water is available, and if it runs out or is spoiled by pollutants, this resource becomes scarce. That is why it is necessary to raise awareness and carry out sustainable water management, avoiding its contamination, overexploitation, and waste. It is about taking measures that guarantee its use but without endangering its availability for future generations.

They can be distinguished by types of water uses:

  • Non-consumptive uses of water. They are those uses in which the water is used but not spent and can be reused for another purpose, such as:
    • The use of water as a source of electrical energy in hydroelectric plants, moving waterwheels, etc.
    • The use of water as a means of communication and transport of people and goods with boats that navigate rivers, lakes and seas.
    • The use of water for sports and leisure, to bathe in swimming pools, rivers, seas, etc., to do scuba diving, surfing, swimming, water polo, canoeing, skiing, etc.
  • Consumptive uses of water. They are those uses in which the water is spent and cannot be used again. For example, the water that is used in agriculturelivestock, industry, ... once it has been used, it cannot be given another use.

Some of the possible uses of water are as follows:

Domestic use of water

Domestic use is the consumption of water that we make to cover our personal needs for drinking, food, personal hygiene, washing machine, dishwasher, house cleaning, watering house plants, etc.

Also included as domestic use is the consumption of water by people in schools, institutes, hospitals, gardens, public fountains, etc.

In Spain, each person consumes an average of 130 liters of water per day, although this average varies according to the cities. Zaragoza, for example, has a consumption of about 96 liters of water per day per inhabitant. Even so, too much water is consumed, since it is estimated that adequate urban consumption is 60 liters per person per day. Of course, in other countries where there is a serious problem of water availability, consumption can be as low as 20 liters per person per day.

Use of water for leisure

Water is also used in leisure activities which, although on many occasions it is a non-consumptive use, must also be taken into account. The water is used in swimming pools, water parks, navigation in reservoirs, rivers, seas, etc., the use of snow for winter sports, etc.

The water in family pools or that used to irrigate golf courses in places of water scarcity, for example, consume a considerable amount of water.

Piscina en hotel de Córdoba (España)

Agricultural and livestock use of water

The irrigation system used in traditional agriculture, using canals and ditches that transport water to the crop field and irrigate by flooding, is a method that involves excessive water consumption. The new irrigation systems, drip and sprinkler, are more efficient techniques that avoid wasting water.

In livestock, the water is used as part of the feeding of the animals and for cleaning the facilities.

Industrial and mining use of water

Water also plays a fundamental role in industry and mining.

The paper, chemical, textile, food industries, etc., use water directly for their products. It can also be used as engine coolant.

In mining, water is used for rock and mineral washing, cleaning, etc.

The water resulting from these uses has a degree of contamination that prevents it from being returned directly to nature, which is why it requires a special treatment, much more intense than that of urban wastewater.