Source Notes for Chapter 1

Chapter 1: The Revenge of Water

1. The first shuttle mission, the test flight of Columbia (STS-1), was launched April 12, 1981, and succeeded without the water sound-suppression system. But the shock waves recorded during launch caused NASA to install the system before the second flight. The peak noise at the pad comes 5 seconds after launch, according to NASA, with the shuttle at 300 feet above the pad and the full force of its five engines reflecting off the pad’s surface. By the time the shuttle is rising through 1,000 feet, the noise on the pad is falling off rapidly.    Scientists with payloads on the shuttle are required to harden them to withstand 145 decibels, inside the shuttle’s payload bay. NASA says the cushion of water keeps the sound down to 142 decibels inside the shuttle’s payload bay. (The noise of a chain saw is about 110 decibels.) A description of the sound suppression system at Kennedy Space Center’s launchpads 39-A and 39-B is below (scroll down to “sound suppression water system”). NASA calls the on-pad water delivery valves “rain birds.”

2. The U.S. Geological Survey report Estimated Use of Water in the United States in 2005 says that total water use for all purposes in the U.S. is 410 billion gallons a day. Of that, electric power plants use 200 billion gallons (49 percent). Using the 2005 Census figure of 296 million Americans, electric power plants in the U.S. are using 676 gallons of water per person. As with water use, though, that doesn’t mean the electricity that each of us uses requires 676 gallons of water per day— that includes electricity used for all industrial and commercial purposes. According to data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration, in a typical year, residential customers use 37 percent of electricity generated, commercial customers use 36 percent, and industrial customers use 27 percent. (Data from 2009 are a little anomalous because of the recession.) Electricity used in U.S. homes requires 37 percent of that 676 gallons per person per day, or 250 gallons per person per day. The full USGS water-use report for 2005 is here (PDF). circ/1344/pdf/c1344.pdf. The EIA data on electricity use by broad sector are here.

3. 2008/2009 Sustainability Review, Coca-Cola Company, 2009, p. 31 (PDF).–2009_sustainability_review.pdf.

4. Women have less water, on average, because fat contains almost no water, and women in general have a higher percentage of body fat than men. Water weighs 8.33 pounds per gallon.

5. Peter Mayer, William DeOreo, Eva Opitz, et al., Residential End Uses of Water, 2000, Water Research Foundation. The executive summary is accessible here. More detail on the study is here. The EPA’s presentation of the study is here.

6. Average residential water consumption in the United Kingdom is small compared with the U.S.—40 gallons (150 liters) per person per day, according to the Office for National Statistics.Estimated Household Water Consumption: Regional Trends 38, Office for National Statistics. a total population of 61.4 million people (2008), Brits use just 2.5 billion gallons of water at home.Average residential water consumption in Canada is closer to U.S. use—91 gal-lons (343 liters) per person per day.Factsheet: Water Use & Consumption in Canada, Program on Water Governance (PDF). a population of 34 million (2008), that’s 3 billion gallons of water per day.UK and Canadian households, together, use 5.5 billion gallons of water a day for all purposes.

7. Water losses by U.S. utilities are calculated by the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE), among others, at 7 billion gallons a day, which comes to 15.8 percent of the total “utility supply” of 44.2 billion gallons a day, as calculated by the USGS.Drinking Water: Report Card for America’s Infrastructure, ASCE, 2009. Use of Water in the United States in 2005, USGS, 2009 (PDF).

8. VEWA Survey: Comparison of European Water and Wastewater Prices, Metropolitan Consulting Group, May 2006, p. 4 (PDF). id100110127_vewa-survey—comparison-of-european-water-and-wastewater-pr/$file/ 0.1_resource_200 6_7_14.pdf.

9. David M. Cutler and Grant Miller, “The Role of Public Health Improvements in Health Advances: The Twentieth-Century United States,” Demography, vol. 42, no. 1, February 2005, pp. 1–22. full text of the study, including charts and tables, is available online (PDF).

10. Cutler and Miller, PDF file at, p. 18.In 1900, infectious diseases, often carried by water, were responsible for 44 percent of U.S. deaths. By 1940, they were responsible for only 18 percent of deaths. (Ibid., p. 6.)

11. Ibid., p. 4.

12. Estimated Use of Water in the United States in 2005, USGS, p. 19 (PDF).

13. Estimated Use of Water in the United States, 1955, USGS, 1957.

Communications Services Spending Increasing, Centris, January 26, 2010 (PDF).

14. No one routinely gathers data on the average monthly water bill. But the American Water Works Association (AWWA) has used usage and fee surveys to estimate that the monthly bill is $34 per household in the U.S. (just for water, not including sewer service).The average monthly cable TV bill in the U.S. in 2009 was $70; the average monthly cell phone bill in 2009 was $93, according to a study by the research firm Centris.

15. The average price of 1,000 gallons of tap water for residential customers in the U.S. was $3.24, according to the 2008 survey conducted by the AWWA.

16. Al Goodman, “Spain Suffers Worst Drought,” CNN, April 18, 2008.

17. “Drought-Stricken Barcelona Ships In Water,” Associated Press, May 16, 2008. Barcelona uses 220 million gallons of water a day—152,777 gallons a minute. So the Sichem Defender’s 5 million gallons of water lasted 32 minutes. The Contester Defender carried 9.5 million gallons of water, which lasted 62 min- utes. That figure is from the French TV news account below: “Barcelona’s Unprecedented Drought,” France 24, May 26, 2008. http://www Britain’s Guardian newspaper has a good account of the arrival of the first water ship, but showed the quantity of water as different from other accounts: Graham Keely, “Barcelona Forced to Import Emergency Water,” Guardian, May 14, 2008. In terms of supplying water by supertanker, the largest supertankers carry about 3 million barrels of crude oil—at 42 gallons a barrel, that’s 126 million gallons. Barce- lona uses 220 million gallons of water a day. And of course, even if you could muster a continuously flowing fleet of two supertankers a day into Barcelona, you’d also have to find enough water to fill those supertankers. Supertanker information: Tanker Information, Pacific Energy Partners, May 2005 (PDF).

18. Thomas Catán, “Barcelona Relies on Water by Ship to Slake Its Thirst Amid Drought,” Times, May 14, 2008.

19. The story of Orme, Tennessee, running out of water is based on these news accounts: Drew Jubera, “Tennessee Town Rations Water,” Atlanta Journal-Constitution, October 21, 2007. Dick Cook, “Rain Lacking; Troubles Welling,” Chattanooga Times Free Press, September 29, 2007. “Tennessee Town Runs Out of Water in Southeast Drought,” Associated Press, November 1, 2007.,2933,307437,00.html. Rusty Dornin, “Town Has Water Just Three Hours a Day,” CNN, November 8, 2007. “Water Flows in Town Where Drought Dried Up Spring,” Associated Press, Knoxville News-Sentinel, December 11, 2007.

20. Steve Helling, “The Town Without Water,” People, December 3, 2007.,,20170838,00.html.

21. Human Development Report, 2006: Beyond Scarcity: Power, Poverty and the Global Water Crisis, UN Development Programme. 1.1 billion people don’t have access to drinking water: p. 2. 700 million people live on $2 a day or less: p. 7.