Lima 2013 Blog: Calculating the Largest Sources and Users of Water in the Americas


AS/COA Online looks at which countries have the biggest supplies of freshwater, and which countries consume the most water.

Peru has an estimated 1913 cubic kilometers per year of annual renewable water resources, ranking higher than Argentina, Chile, and Venezuela in terms of absolute freshwater supplies.

Latin America is home to some of the largest sources of freshwater on the planet, largely stemming from the Amazon River basin, as well as glaciers in the Andes. With this in mind, Brazil leads the Americas with the largest absolute supply of freshwater, followed by Canada and the United States, according to data from the Pacific Institute. Colombia, Peru, and Venezuela also rank among the top Latin American sources of freshwater. On the lower end, Honduras and El Salvador have some of the smallest sources.

Out of 19 countries in the Americas, Peru ranks second in freshwater resources per capita with 54,567 cubic meters per person.

However, population is also an important to take into account, given the daily demands for consuming water, whether for personal or commercial use. When calculating freshwater resources per capita in 19 countries in the Americas, Canada, Peru, and Chile have the largest amounts, using World Bank statistics. Meanwhile, Brazil and the United States, with much bigger populations, have fewer water resources per person. Brazil has about half the freshwater per capita as Peru, and the United States has less freshwater per capita than small countries like Guatemala and Uruguay.  Argentina, Mexico, and El Salvador have some of the smallest amounts of freshwater per capita in the region.

But what about consumption? In 2011, Dutch researchers Arjen Hoekstra and Mesfin Mekonnen calculated the average annual water footprint of each country, finding how much freshwater is used to produce domestic goods and services, such as agriculture, industrial production, and domestic water supply. Based on the study, Bolivia tops the Americas in terms of water consumption per capita. One possible factor has to do with food consumption, the researchers noted. In Bolivia, meat consumption is 1.3 times higher than the global average, but the water footprint per ton of meat is five times higher than the global average.

Out of 19 countries, Peru has the fourth smallest water consumption per capita with an annual average water use of 1,088 cubic meters per capita.

Rounding out the top five water consumers are the United States, Canada, Uruguay, and Brazil. On the lower end, Guatemala and Nicaragua have some of the smallest water footprints in the region.