The Visible & Invisible Water We Use Everyday

Many people may be unaware of the true amount of water that goes into the things they do, use and consume on a daily basis.

So, the guide below summarises the visible, and also the invisible water people use in their everyday lives.

We give a description of what both visible and invisible water are, and also identify which things might use the most amount of water.


Summary – The Invisible & Visible Water We Use Everyday

What Invisible & Visible Water Usage Is

Everything people do, use and consume has a water footprint, and that footprint is made up of visible and invisible water usage

Visible water is the water people see, and that people use directly

An example of visible water use is someone running a tap at home to wash their hands

Invisible water is the water people don’t see, that people use indirectly

Invisible water is used at a different part of the product or activity life cycle

One example of this is electricity used in a home that uses water up the supply chain at a power plant

Another example is the embodied water in the food we eat – water was used to grow/produce and process that food

Even a bottle of water has an indirect water footprint for the water used to make the bottle that the water comes in


What Visible & Invisible Water Usage Is Made Up Of

The main components of visible and invisible water usage are:

– Direct/visible water use

Domestic consumption (drinking, cooking, washing, and other water use at home)


– Indirect/invisible water use

Product use (like clothes and paper)

Foods eaten

Electricity use


Where The Most & Least Water Is Used

– Data Set 1

According to one set of data by, people have an average daily water footprint of 3800 litres

The vast majority of water use (about 92% of a person’s daily water footprint) happens indirectly with the foods people eat

A much smaller amount of water is used indirectly for the products people use, and also for direct domestic consumption.


– Data Set 2

According to a second set of data by, the average person uses 1075 gallons of water per day for household use

The vast majority of water is used indirectly for both food and electricity.

Only a small amount is used for direct household use.

There is an asterisk on indirect water use for electricity though – the number can be much smaller, or sometimes higher, depending on technology and energy sources used. 


– Data Set 3

The third data set indicates diet and food takes up the most water for the average American, with energy use in second

Products and home use are the two minor water users in the water footprint have not delineated between direct and indirect water use, but their %’s are ‘Of an average American’s daily water footprint, 50% goes towards diet and food, 30% to energy, 10% to products and 10% to home use’


Visible Water People Use

According to

Domestic consumption in the household (drinking, cooking, washing) – 137 litres of water, per person, per day

35% is bathing and showering, 30% is flushing the toilet, 20% is laundry, 10% is cooking and drinking, and 5% is cleaning


According to

Direct household use (bathing, laundry, lawn, etc) – 100 gallons of water, per person, per day


Invisible Water People Use

According to

The food people eat – 3496 litres of water, per day 

Industrial products consumed, like paper, clothes, etc – 167 litres of water, per day


According to

Food production – 510 gallons, per person, per day

Household electricity – 465 gallons, per person, per day. But, this number can vary between 30 to 600 gallons, depending on the technology used


Which Foods & Drinks Use The Most Water?

In general, diets composed of less animal meat, particularly beef, might use less water.

Grass fed beef might use less water than corn and grain fed beef (but, some people also question the conversion efficiency in the feed of different farmed animals)

In addition to reducing beef intake (to say one day a week instead of 2 or more), reducing food waste might be another way to save on a person’s food water footprint.

You can also read more in this guide about how much water different foods and drinks take to make.


What Products & Everyday Things Use The Most Water?

Read more in this guide about the everyday products and things that might use the most and least water.

We outline how much water it might take to produce electricity from different energy sources, and look at other products like cars, shoes, t shirts, and more.


An Example Of The Indirect Water In Food

thewaterweeat provides a good example of the water hidden in a piece of beef.

The vast majority of it comes from the feed required to feed cattle, and the remainder comes from water the cattle need to drink, and finally water for servicing farmhouses and slaughterhouses.







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