The Weight of Water

Part of the Water: H2O = Life exhibition.

© QDrum

In the developed world, we seldom bear the weight of water. If we did, it's safe to assume we'd use a lot less than we do. For instance, in North America--that is, Canada and the United States--average use per person inside the home ranges from 225 to 335 liters (about 60 to 90 gallons) a day. The weight of that water? Between 225 and 335 kilograms (about 500 to 740 pounds).

Try lifting a three-gallon jug of water. Be careful, because water weighs a lot. You won't be able to put it on your head, which is the way many people carry water over very long distances.

You're feeling the burden of about 11 liters (three gallons)--or 11 kilograms (25 pounds)--of water. Water experts say that people in some regions may carry nearly four times this weight on their heads to meet the water needs of their families.

Rolling Water

The Q-Drum, made of tough plastic, holds 50 liters (13 gallons) of water--and it rolls! The only extra equipment needed is a piece of rope. Clever ideas like the Q-Drum, shown here in South Africa, simplify people's lives in the short term, but it would take improvements to infrastructure to make permanent change happen.

Long Distance

Distance from a clean water source is a critical factor affecting women's lives; in some places in sub-Saharan Africa, for instance, women can spend between 15 and 17 hours each week collecting water. A decent water supply and good health are tightly linked, and the need to carry water long distances limits the amount women can bring to their families.