Water scarcity affects 40% of the planet. Collectively, it’s crucial that we’re all more aware of the way in which we use – and waste – water. After all, water wastage will inevitably lead to water scarcity, which can lead on to drought. In turn, we could see water levels drop in our wonderful reservoirs, lakes, rivers and streams; fish and plant life dying; livestock, endangered species and wildlife not being able to access drinking water; and reduction of soil quality impacting agriculture.

How do countries compare on their domestic water consumption per capita?

Canada is home to 20% of the world’s freshwater, leading consumers to believe there’s no risk to using – and, indeed, wasting – water. However, various factors – including climate change, global warming, consumer behaviour and governmental policies – mean sustainable water usage needs to be a priority to preserve Canada’s water supply for future generations.

The top 7 countries in the world for domestic water consumption per capita are:

Canada (population in thousands: 30889) – 29.1 m3

  • When you combine domestic water consumption with industrial and agricultural water use, this equates to a massive 2,333 m3 per capita.

Armenia (pop. 3090) – 27.3 m3

  • Armenia’s water usage figure rose between 2009 and 2017 due to expansion of the public water supply network to rural areas. This means that, while Armenia’s population decreased by 7% during this period, the amount of water supplied to households increased by 75%.
  • Their total combined water usage figure is 1,439 m3 per capita per year; a lower total compared to Canada due to Armenia’s lower green and grey water consumption.

New Zealand (pop. 3906) – 26.1 m3

  • While concern for the environment has meant consumers strive to adopt water saving habits, water usage is high, typically due to demand in agriculture, hydro-electricity and tourism.
  • Thanks to low figures for green, blue and grey water across industrial, domestic and agriculture, New Zealand’s total water consumption is 1,589 m3 per capita per year.

USA (pop. 288958) – 22.6 m3

  • Domestic consumption in the United States may be attributed to easy access to safe, treated water across the country. While consumption rates are high, public domestic water use has declined since 1995, partly due to infrastructure improvements, better detection of leaks and consumers being more aware of the problems caused by water wastage.
  • The USA has a total water consumption amount of 2,842 m3 per capita, per year with its green water consumption being the highest of the countries in this top 7.

Costa Rica (pop. 3963) – 19.9 m3

  • Costa Rica has a good track record of environmental conservation, however with clean water being guaranteed for all households, it does allow water to be more easily used.
  • Costa Rica’s total water consumption is 1,490 m3, owing to low blue water figures, and comparatively lower grey water figures when compared to the US and Canada.

Panama (pop. 2979) – 18.5 m3

  • Panama is the biggest consumer of water in Latin America. As both its population and economy steadily grows, the country is likely to face further demand for new water sources. Household water usage is also encouraged due to the low cost of water in the country. A significantly low total blue water consumption amount sees Panama’s total figures being the lowest of this group of 7, at 1,364 m3 .

United Arab Emirates (pop. 3330) – 18.5 m3

  • The UAE has the highest ecological footprint the world, with water consumption growing significantly since 1960 (both due to population growth and high household water use). With the country’s water desalination plants burning copious amounts of fossil fuels, its demand for water is also adding to its carbon footprint.
  • The UAE has one of the highest total water consumption across agriculture, domestic and industry at 3.136 m3, scoring highest for all three types of water usage compared to all 7 countries in this list.

Saving money through efficient water consumption

As well as environmental benefits, there’s a significant financial benefit to saving water. For example, let’s look at the top 5 countries in the world with the highest domestic water consumption. The countries’ residents could save an average of $317 in a single use of their appliances by following the water savings tips listed above. In contrast, ignoring water saving measures could see them spending an average of $1326 across all appliances.

A breakdown of the individual countries is below:


Country  Spend without water conservation methods ($)  Spend if water conservation methods are followed ($)  Total saving ($) 
Canada 1,970 1,458 512
Armenia 323 239 84
New Zealand 1,626 1.204 422
USA 1,940 1,436 504
Costa Rica 808 598 210

How to reduce your water consumption

High water consumption – and any rate of water wastage – could have significant environmental impacts that are felt throughout generations. Fortunately, some simple shifts in your habits can go a long way in helping reduce our individual water consumption. Hydrologist Ali Nazemi, who is also Associate Professor at the Department of Building, Civil and Environmental Engineering at Concordia University, shares the following tips for reducing water consumption:

  • Check your appliances regularly for leaks in the water pipes, including your dishwasher, toilet, washing machine, showerheads and taps in both the kitchen and bathroom.
  • Switch to efficient appliances where possible. This includes efficient dishwashers and washing machines, and low-flow toilets, as well as installing efficient showerheads and aerators on taps.
  • Consider changing some habits. While many people will take daily showers and put their clothes in the wash after wearing them just once, you may not need to do either of these. Unless you’re very active, you can reduce your showers to every other day (or even less!), while most clothes will last for several wears before they need to be washed.
  • Never pre-rinse your dishes before putting them in the dishwasher. Instead, simply scrape any food into the green bin and place them in the dishwasher. If you don’t have a dishwasher, put your dishes in a tub of soapy water immediately after use, scraping off food into the green bin first. With less stubborn food to remove, you’ll be using less water and less elbow grease!
  • Take a short shower, if possible, as every drop counts. Turn off the shower when washing your hair and body – leaving the water running accounts for half of the total water used when showering.
  • Try to think of baths as treats. Stop running the tap when your tub is three-quarters full – or even half full – so you don’t spill water when you step in. If you enjoy a regular bath, consider getting a smaller tub.
  • As well as installing an efficient toilet, you may want to switch to a smaller flush tank and use recycled water for flushing. For example, if you usually run the water in the shower while it gets up to temperature, capture this water in a bucket and use that to fill the flush tank. Flushing accounts for 30% of household water use, so only use the flush when nature calls – and not as a substitute bin for disposing of things like dental floss.
  • When washing vegetables, utensils or dinnerware, don’t let the water run. Soak your veggies in water rather than running them under the tap.
  • Whether you’re shaving, washing your face or brushing your teeth, don’t let the water run. On average, people use the bathroom 5 times a day – which means washing their hands at least 5 times too. You may want to switch to automated taps – where it runs on only when your hand is under the tap – to help save water even further.
  • Make sure you’re not under- or over-filling your washing machine. Using a washing machine rather than handwashing is the best way to save water when washing clothes. Most clothes won’t need extra rinsing at the end either – save it for occasional special items instead.
  • Check how high your water consumption isby using a water usage calculatorthat highlights your most inefficient areas and offers tips to help you reduce your consumption.