With nearly 2,000 cubic metres (70,000 ft3) of water per person and per year, the United States leads the world in water consumption per capita.
In the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) countries, the U.S. is first for water consumption, then Canada with 1,600 cubic meters (56,000 ft3) of water per person per year, which is about twice the amount of water used by the average person from France, three times as much as the average German, and almost eight times as much as the average Dane.
Since 1980, overall water use in Canada has increased by 25.7%. This is five times higher than the overall OECD increase of 4.5%.
In contrast, nine OECD nations were able to decrease their overall water use since 1980 (Sweden, the Netherlands, the United States, the United Kingdom, the Czech Republic, Luxembourg, Poland, Finland and Denmark).
Ninety-five percent of the United States' fresh water is underground. One crucial source is a huge underground reservoir, the 1,300-kilometer (800 mi) Ogallala aquifer which stretches from Texas to South Dakota and waters one fifth of U.S. irrigated land. Formed over millions of years, the Ogallala aquifer has since been cut off from its original natural sources. It is being depleted at a rate of 12 billion cubic meters (420 billion ft3) per year, amounting to a total depletion to date of a volume equal to the annual flow of 18 Colorado Rivers. Some estimates say it will dry up in as little as 25 years.
Many farmers in the Texas High Plains, which rely particularly on the underground source, are now turning away from irrigated agriculture as they become aware of the hazards of overpumping.
In Mexico City, an estimated 40% of the city's water is lost through leaky pipes built at the turn of the 20th century.
The Middle East region has only 1% of the world's available fresh water, which is shared among 5% of the world's population. Thus, in this region, water is an important strategic resource. By 2025, it is predicted that the countries of the Arabian peninsula will be using more than double the amount of water naturally available to them. According to a report by the Arab League, two-thirds of Arab countries have less than 1,000 cubic meters (35,000 ft3) of water per person per year available, which is considered the limit.
Jordan, for example, has little water, and dams in other countries have reduced its available water over the years. The 1994 Israel-Jordan Treaty of Peace stated that Israel would give 50 million cubic meters of water (1.7 billion ft3) per year to Jordan, which it refused to do in 1999 before backtracking. The 1994 treaty stated that the two countries would cooperate in order to allow Jordan better access to water resources, notably through dams on the Yarmouk River. Confronted by this lack of water, Jordan is preparing new techniques to use non-conventional water resources, such as second-hand use of irrigation water and desalinization techniques, which are very costly and are not yet used. A desalinization project will soon be started in Hisban, south of Amman. The Disi groundwater project, in the south of Jordan, will cost at least $250 million to bring out water. Along with the Unity Dam on the Yarmouk River, it is one of Jordan's largest strategic projects. Born in 1987, the "Unity Dam" would involve both Jordan and Syria. This "Unity Dam" still has not been implemented because of Israel's opposition, Jordan and Syrian conflictive relations and refusal of world investors. However, Jordan's reconciliation with Syria following the death of King Hussein represents the removal of one of the project's greatest obstacles.
Both Israel and Jordan rely on the Jordan River, but Israel controls it, as well as 90% of the water resources in the region.
Water is also an important issue in the conflict with the Palestinians - indeed, according to former Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon quoted by Abel Darwish in the BBC, it was one of the causes of the 1967 Six-Day War. In practice the access to water has been a casus belli for Israel. The Israeli army prohibits Palestinians from pumping water, and settlers use much more advanced pumping equipment. Palestinians complain of a lack of access to water in the region. Israelis in the West Bank use four times as much water as their Palestinian neighbors. According to the World Bank, 90% of the West Bank's water is used by Israelis. Article 40 of the appendix B of the September 28, 1995 Oslo accords stated that "Israel recognizes Palestinians' rights on water in the West Bank".
The Golan Heights provide 770 million cubic meters (27 billion ft3) of water per year to Israel, which represents a third of its annual consumption. The Golan's water goes to the Sea of Galilee — Israel's largest reserve — which is then redistributed throughout the country by the National Water Carrier. The Golan, which Israel annexed, represents a strategic territory for Israel because of its water resources.
However, the level on the Sea of Galilee has dropped over the years, sparking fears that Israel's main water reservoir will become salinated.
On its northern border, Israel threatened military action in 2002 when Lebanon opened a new pumping station taking water from a river feeding the Jordan. To help ease the crisis, Israel has agreed to buy water from Turkey and is investigating the construction of desalination plants.
Iraq and Syria watched with apprehension the construction of the Atatürk Dam in Turkey and a projected system of 22 dams on the Tigris and Euphrates rivers.
According to the BBC, the list of 'water-scarce' countries in the region grew steadily from three in 1955 to eight in 1990 with another seven expected to be added within 20 years, including three Nile nations (the Nile is shared by nine countries).
In Asia, Cambodia and Vietnam are concerned by China's and Laos' attempts to control the flux of water. China is also preparing the Three Gorges Dam project on the Yangtze River, which would become the world's largest dam, causing many social and environmental problems. It also has a project to divert water from the Yangtze to the dwindling Yellow River, which feeds China's most important farming region.
The Ganges is disputed between India and Bangladesh. The water reserves are being quickly depleted and polluted, while the glacier feeding the sacred Hindu river is retreating hundreds of feet each year because of global warming and deforestation in the Himalayas, which is causing subsoil streams flowing into the Ganges river to dry up. Downstream, India controls the flow to Bangladesh with the Farakka Barrage, 10 kilometers (6 mi) on the Indian side of the border. Until the late 1990s, India used the barrage to divert the river to Calcutta to keep the city's port from drying up during the dry season. This denied Bangladeshi farmers water and silt, and it left the Sundarban wetlands and mangrove forests at the river's delta seriously threatened. The two countries have now signed an agreement to share the water more equally. Water quality, however, remains a problem, with high levels of arsenic and untreated sewage in the river water.
The Guaraní Aquifer, located between the Mercosur countries of Argentina, Brazil, Bolivia and Paraguay, with a volume of about 40,000 km³, is an important source of fresh potable water for all four countries.