Water consumption rates: which industries use the most?

Water is a finite resource, and certain industries consume more than their fair share. Learn which industries have the highest water footprint and how they are working towards more sustainable water usage.
Water consumption rates

Water scarcity is a pressing issue affecting many parts of the world, particularly in areas where water resources are limited, or the water demand exceeds the available supply. As the global population continues to grow, so does the water demand. Therefore, it is increasingly important to identify industries that use the most water and find ways to reduce their water consumption rates.

In this blog, we will explore the industries that use the most water and examine the methods they use to conserve this precious resource. Understanding which industries use the most water can help us work towards more sustainable and efficient water management practices. This will help ensure that future generations have access to this vital resource.

Which industries have the highest water consumption rates?

While all industries have a water footprint, some require significantly larger amounts of freshwater than others. Here is an overview of the industries with high consumption rates.


Agriculture is one of the largest consumers of water, accounting for approximately 70% of all freshwater withdrawals. However, the amount of water required for agricultural production varies depending on the type of crop, climate, soil type, and irrigation method used. For example, rice, cotton, and sugarcane require the most water, while maize, wheat, and soybeans require less.

Irrigation is a key factor in agricultural water use. It can be achieved using different methods, including surface irrigation, drip irrigation, and sprinkler irrigation. Surface irrigation is the most common method used worldwide but is also the least efficient.

This is due to significant water loss from evaporation and runoff. Drip irrigation, on the other hand, is a highly efficient method that delivers water directly to the roots of plants, reducing water waste and increasing crop yields.

Efforts to improve water efficiency in agriculture include precision agriculture and the use of drought-resistant crop varieties. Precision agriculture uses technology to optimize water use and reduce waste. Additionally, water reuse and recycling in agriculture, such as using treated wastewater for irrigation, can also help reduce water consumption.

Fashion Industry

The fashion industry is a significant consumer of water, with the production of textiles and clothing requiring large amounts of water throughout the supply chain. Cotton, the most widely used natural fiber in clothing production, requires significant water for cultivation. The textile dyeing and finishing process also requires large quantities of water, often discharged as wastewater, contributing to water pollution.

Efforts to reduce water consumption rates in the fashion industry include using sustainable materials such as organic cotton and recycled polyester. These materials require less water than traditional materials, making them a more water-efficient and sustainable option. Waterless dyeing techniques, such as air dyeing, have also been developed to reduce water usage in textile production.

Additionally, water treatment and recycling technologies can be used to reduce the environmental impact of textile manufacturing. Water-saving initiatives, such as rainwater for irrigation, can also help reduce water consumption in the industry.

Read also: The cost of fast fashion industry: the human, social and economic impact

Energy Industry

The energy industry is another major consumer of water, with water used for cooling purposes in thermal power generation and for hydraulic fracturing in oil and natural gas extraction. Power plants that use cooling towers, common in nuclear and fossil fuel power generation, can consume vast amounts of water. The oil and gas industry also requires significant amounts of water for hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, to extract oil and gas from shale formations.

Efforts to reduce water usage in the energy industry include using dry cooling technologies for thermal power generation. This technology requires little to no water. Additionally, the industry is developing water-free fracking techniques to reduce water consumption. Recycling and reuse of wastewater in energy production can help reduce water consumption.

Meat Industry

The meat industry is a significant consumer of water, with livestock production requiring large amounts of water for feed production and animal hydration. Water is also used in meat processing, including cleaning and sanitizing equipment and facilities.

Efforts to reduce water consumption in the meat industry include using alternative feed sources that require less water, such as grass-fed and pasture-raised livestock. Additionally, water-efficient irrigation methods can be used in crop production for feed. Water recycling and treatment technologies can be implemented in meat processing facilities to reduce water usage.

These technologies can help to reduce wastewater discharge, promoting more sustainable water management practices. Other sustainable practices, such as reducing food waste and improving supply chain efficiencies, can also help reduce water usage in the meat industry.

Beverage Industry

The beverage industry, which includes producing soft drinks, juices, and alcoholic beverages, is a significant consumer of water. Water is used in the production of beverages for cleaning, processing, and ingredient preparation.

Efforts to reduce water consumption rates in the beverage industry include water reuse and recycling. Wastewater from beverage production can be treated and reused for non-potable purposes, contributing to more sustainable water management practices. Water-efficient technologies, such as low-flow nozzles and automated monitoring systems, can also help reduce water usage in beverage production.

Developing more sustainable packaging, such as lightweight and recyclable materials, can also help reduce the environmental impact of the beverage industry. Companies can work towards sustainable sourcing of ingredients to reduce the water footprint of their products.

We need to find ways to conserve industrial water consumption rates

Several industries have a significant impact on water consumption, including agriculture, fashion, energy, meat, and beverage industries. Efforts to reduce water consumption rates in these industries include implementing sustainable practices such as water-efficient technologies and alternative sourcing methods. Additionally, using recycled and treated wastewater can also contribute to more sustainable and efficient water use.

By recognizing the impact of these industries on water resources, we can promote sustainable water management practices. This can help us work towards a more water-efficient and sustainable future. Therefore, it is crucial to ensure that our water resources are used responsibly and efficiently to meet the needs of present and future generations.

Read also: World Water Day 2023, UN warns: unsustainable use, risk of global water crisis

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