Other Uses and Types of Water

Photo of medical water use in a dental office

Potable water comprises only a small fraction of the total use of water in the United States, with the main uses of freshwater resources being agricultural (for example, irrigation, animal feeding operations) and industrial (for example, cooling towers) activities 1. These activities, in addition to medical ones (for example, hemodialysis, dental procedures), are commonly referred to as “other uses” of water.

The Many Uses of Water

Photo of industrial water equipment and pipes.

Water can be used for direct and indirect purposes. Direct purposes include bathing, drinking, and cooking, while examples of indirect purposes are the use of water in processing wood to make paper and in producing steel for automobiles. The bulk of the world’s water use is for agriculture, industry, and electricity. The most common water uses include:

  • Drinking and Household Needs
  • Recreation
  • Industry and Commerce
  • Agriculture
  • Thermoelectricity/Energy


*1971-2010; Ordered from highest to lowest frequency (i.e., #1 is the most-commonly reported etiology). Only confirmed etiologies in source databases have been included the analyses. For outbreaks with multiple etiologies or settings, each etiologic agent and setting has been counted towards the total.