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Water use and the water cycle
Water use and the water cycle

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1.3 Summary of Section 1

  1. Water is a renewable resource; globally there is a virtually constant supply of fresh water, as water is recycled by natural processes, but it is unevenly distributed.

  2. A few litres of water per day are needed per person for human survival. For subsistence, the daily requirement is 20-40 litres per person; this includes the use of water for cooking and washing in addition to drinking, but not water for growing food. Water use in industrialised countries is typically 500 litres per person per day. This includes water for various purposes: domestic, industrial, power generation and agriculture.

  3. On a global scale the largest use of water is for agriculture (70%), most of which is for irrigation. 8% of the remaining water is used for domestic purposes, and 22% for industry.

  4. The uses of water can be separated into consumptive and non-consumptive. A consumptive use is where water is used in such a way as to be temporarily lost as a resource, as when used for the domestic water supply. In a nonconsumptive use, such as transportation, neither the natural route nor the quality of the water is changed.

  5. In the UK, water is the cheapest of all physical resources, at an average price of £0.80 per tonne in England and Wales (2004). Supply and demand relationships apply to water as they do to other resources. Water generally has a high place value, as the cost of transporting water would add considerably to its price.