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We have a fixed amount of water on Earth, and only 1% of that water is available for human use. When our use of water outpaces the rate at which it can be replenished naturally, we increase the risk of water shortages. As more water becomes undrinkable due to things like pollution and sea level rise, and as the natural water cycle is impacted by human activities, more water will become unusable.

Household water usage is responsible for 5-10% of total fresh water used worldwide. Most of this usage happens in North America. On average, each American uses approximately 100 gallons of water a day at home, while someone living in a water poor country will use only about 2 gallons of water a day. In America, almost 17% of at home water use is for showering.

If everyone at University of Richmond decreased their shower time by 2 minutes, we'd save nearly 11 million gallons of water a year. Get an overview of sustainability and water in our water fact sheet.

Water and Environmental Justice

Marginalized communities disproportionately experience lack of access to clean, safe, and affordable drinking water. Water infrastructure in these areas is also generally outdated and unstable, increasing the risk of contamination. Over 70% of coal ash ponds in Virginia are located near minority communities. Coal ash ponds are disposal sites for waste from coal power plants that increase risk of contaminated freshwater sources nearby.

Test Your Knowledge With Our Water Quiz

Test your knowledge, learn more, or get one step closer to joining URSA with our water quiz.

Conserve Water & Be A Green Spider

Shop secondhand

Producing new clothing can use a huge amount of water. About 1,800 gallons of water are needed to produce the cotton in a pair jeans, and 400 gallons to produce the cotton in a shirt. Shopping secondhand gives a product new life, keeps it out of the landfill, and avoids using water to prodice a new item.

Shower smarter

-Install a low-flow shower head at home

-Limit showers to 5 minutes 5 days a week, and no more than 10 minutes at all times. Every minute you shave off your shower time can save approximately 1,000 gallons of water in a year.

Turn off the water while shaving

A bathroom faucet can dispense up to 2 gallons of water per minute.

Turn off the water while you brush your teeth

If you leave the water running for two minutes, it can use more than 4 gallons of water.

Wait to do laundry until there is a full load

-Energy Star machines use 13 gallons of water per load

-Standard machines use 23 gallons per load

Avoid leaving water running while you do dishes

To save water, you turn off water while soaping dishes or fill the sink with soapy water, wash dishes, then fill again with clean water to rinse dishes.

Use a dishwasher

According to the NRDC, hand washing dishes can use up to 9 times more water than using a dishwasher.

Use a reusable water bottle

It takes three liters of water to make one liter of bottled water.

Pick foods with a lower water footprint

Producing one kilogram of beef requires three times more water than producing one kilogram of chicken, and 47 times more water than producing one kilogram of vegetables. Eating less meat and choosing a couple meals each week to eat vegetarian or vegan can save thousands of gallons of water each year. Learn more.

Take a class to learn about water

Many classes address water use, pollution, and watershed health. Consider taking one of the following courses to learn more about water: 

  • BIOL 108: Environmental Biology with Lab
  • CHEM 110: Pollutants in the Environment
  • ENVR/ GEOG 215: Geography of the James River Watershed
  • ENVR 199: Coastal Marine Ecology with Lab
  • MGMT 348: Environmental Management

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Water Facts