Energy for Water

Sarah Kozicki is program associate for National Environmental Education Week (EE Week), a program of the National Environmental Education Foundation designed to connect educators with resources to improve K-12 students’ understanding of the environment. An annual event, EE Week will be held this year from April 11-17. For more information and to get involved, visit

Thumbnail image for EEWeek_SK_WaterPump.jpgHave you had a glass of water to drink today? How much energy do you think went into treating and transporting that water from its source – probably a lake or aquifer – to your kitchen faucet?

In the United States, 13 percent of the total energy produced each year is used to treat, transport, and heat our water. While that sounds like a lot of energy, getting clean water in the United States is as easy as turning on the tap. In some places around the globe, it is not that simple. 

In some parts of the world, water is pumped by hand to fill buckets that are carried by women and children from a public source to their homes
Photo Credit: WaterAid/
Layton Thompson

Water around the World: Carrying Water

In the United States and other developed countries, cleaned and treated fresh water is piped directly into our homes – we can turn on the tap for drinkable water any time. However, in less-developed countries, human energy is a necessary part of daily water use. About two-thirds of the world’s families do not have a water supply in their homes and must fetch water in jugs and buckets from wells, rivers, hand pumps, and other public sources. This water is usually collected and carried by women and children.In Asia and Africa, the average woman walks a total of 3.7 miles to collect and carry fresh water home each day. The average weight of water Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for EEWeek_SK_WomenCarryWater.jpgthat a woman in Africa and Asia will carry is about 40 pounds! Water is usually carried on the head, back or hips, which can cause severe health problems. On average, a person living in sub-Saharan Africa uses four gallons of water a day, while someone in the United States uses 82 gallons of water a day or more.

Many African women must travel miles by foot
each day to fetch enough water for their families

Photo Credit: WaterAid/Layton Thompson

How many trips would you have to make if you had to carry all the water your family uses in a day?

Continue reading “Energy for Water”