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1 million miles of pipe and other surprising water trivia

I didn’t know this: It takes about 40,000 gallon of water to make a car, tires included; I didn’t know this either: The first-ever municipal water filtration system opened up in Scotland in 1832.

Earlier this spring, as you know, unhealthy levels of lead were revealed to be poisoning people in Flint, Mich., through the city’s public water supply. The bureaucratic blunder that led to this terrible public health hazard grabbed headlines and scrutiny across the country. And some of the trivial tidbits that accompanied the reporting out of Flint grabbed the ears of me and my son, who is 9. When we heard how many miles of pipes snake through the United States, we had to find out more.

As horrifying as the news out of Flint was and still is, we wanted to know more about public water logistics, or to be more precise, we wanted to see the big stats we thought we would surely discover.

Being cool-nerdy guys who like to ‘look things up,’ my boy and I found a webpage dedicated to water trivia compiled by the good folks at the Environmental Protection Agency. It’s a pretty extensive list. You will know right off the answers to some of the trivia questions on the page. But if you are like me, you'll find some nuggets to throw out at get-togethers.

16 water-related trivia questions unrelated to agriculture which will awe (or not) your friends:

  1. How much water does an individual use daily? More than 100 gallons (all uses).
  2. What does a person pay for water on a daily basis? National average is 25 cents.
  3. How many community public water systems are there in the United States? 54,000.
  4. How much water do public water utilities in the U.S. process daily? 38 billion gallons.
  5. What does it cost to operate the water systems throughout the country annually? More than $3.5 billion.
  6. How many miles of pipeline and aqueducts are in the United States and Canada? Approximately 1 million miles, or enough pipes and structure to circle the earth 40 times.
  7. From what were the first water pipes made from in the US? Fire charred bored logs.
  8. Where was the first municipal water filtration works opened and when? Paisley, Scotland in 1832.
  9. How many households use private wells for their water supply? More than 13 million.
  10. How much water is used to flush a toilet? 2-7 gallons.
  11. How much water is used in the average five-minute shower? 15-25 gallons.
  12. How much water is used on the average for an automatic dishwasher? 9-12 gallons.
  13. On the average, how much is used to hand wash dishes? 9-20 gallons.
  14. How much water does it take to produce one ton of steel? 62,600 gallons.
  15. How much water is used to produce a single day’s supply of U.S. newsprint? 300 million gallons.
  16. What is the total amount of water used to manufacture a new car, including new tires? 39,090 gallons per car.

Thanks go to Gary Hawkins, University of Georgia Extension water and conservation specialist, for pointing out, and helping me find, these EPA water facts on his blog Water at UGA.

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