Crazy Water Facts from “The Big Thirst”

We’ve finally gotten around to reading Charles Fishman’s 2011 book, The Big Thirst. (Spoiler—it’s about water.) We tend to keep a local focus here at Indy Soft Water, but Fishman does a great job of showing water’s role around the world, including water-dry Australia, India, and Las Vegas. Compared to other regions, we’re sitting pretty lucky with water here in the Midwest! It’s an interesting book to discuss concerns about water awareness and conservation. Not up for a long read? No worries. We’ve summarized The Big Thirst with three relatable facts for our Indianapolis friends and neighbors:
99—In a single day, the average American uses 99 gallons of water in their home.
When water crises happen—when pipes get damaged, or when hurricanes hit the coasts, bottled water just can’t cut it. Populations have major problems when municipal, city water is contaminated. The Big Thirst goes into detail about how, around the world, we take water for granted. Because water service seems so basic, so natural, we often don’t think about it. We’ve all dealt with the electricity going out for short periods of time, but when the water isn’t safe, the problems escalate. At home, we use water for just about everything: drinking, cleaning, cooking, and bathing…not to mention coffee, tea, and ice… 99 gallons of water add up fast in the American home and, in his book, Fishman says that just flushing the toilet accounts for nearly 20 of those gallons each day. If we’re more aware of how we use water, we can start reducing how we waste it. To start now, check out the Water—Use It Wisely conservation campaign. They have some great indoor tips.
35—The Safe Drinking Water Act was written over 35 years ago.
The U.S. water treatment plants regularly test for about 90 contaminants. Fishman says it’s important to remember that those standards were written more than 35 years ago. While there are periodic updates, more and more new, foreign substances inundate our water every day. Some unregulated chemicals and pollutants from medications are even recognized as “endocrine disruptors.” When not properly treated, they can act like added hormones in our drinking water. Micropollutants are getting more attention in recent years, but there’s still a lot we don’t know. The footnotes in The Big Thirst say the EPA announced plans in 2010 to overhaul our drinking water standards. This could include micropollutants, but unfortunately, there aren’t any specifics outlined in the plan. That’s why it’s always best to filter your family’s drinking water. You can find more information on these water pollutants and how to avoid them on the Environmental Working Group’s website and in their article “Dirty Dozen Endocrine Disruptors.”
29—Maintaining the entire country’s water system costs the United States $29 billion each year.
Fishman tells us that everything from the treatment plants, pump stations, and pipes in the ground total $29 billion annually. The shocking part is that consumers spend nearly as much as that on bottled water. $21 billion each year, or $1.25 per week, per person goes to those disposable plastic bottles. That’s $21 billion for water that couldn’t even get a person through half a day’s worth of what they need! Contrast that information with this—according to research in The Big Thirst, the average home water bill for 1,000 gallons of water in America is just $3.24. That’s 1,000 gallons for just a couple dollars more than a single plastic water bottle. Tap water that’s properly, thoroughly filtered with an energy-efficient home system can save you big bucks. And abandoning bottled water and delivered water tanks in your company office is just as easy. Check out Bottle Free Indy to learn more about how you can kiss your plastic water bottle bill goodbye!