I recall seeing LOTS of water usage on a tour of Kennedy Space Center as a kid: during launches, etc.

I'm looking only for a magnitude of order, so I would be satisfied with "hella" or "not much more than a fish farm" or whatever. This does not include regular use (the bathrooms, landscaping, etc.) but just the operations, and whatever timeframe that is convenient for you; I can extrapolate from there.

Bonus Question - if it's a lot, is it fresh water, distilled water, sea water?


2 Answers 2


Well, I must say a "hella".

Only figures I can quote are for the sound suppression system:

An elevated water tank near each pad provided sound buffering protection for the launching spacecraft. Part of the Sound Suppression Water System (SSWS), the 290-foot (88 m) water towers stored 300,000 gallons (1.1 Megalitres) of water, which was released just before engine ignition. The water discharged onto the launch platform during lift-off muffled the intense sound waves produced by the first stage Rocketdyne F-1 engines. Due to heating of the water, a large quantity of steam was produced during launch.

I think right now there are 2 launchpads in operation, so that would give you an idea.

sound suppression system test Sound suppression system test on Launchpad 39A in 2004.

Quoted source: Wikipedia

  • 2
    $\begingroup$ First, thanks for the help, and second: I have edited it, above. No matter how many times I re-read my question before posting... $\endgroup$
    – Mikey
    Dec 18, 2014 at 14:19
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    $\begingroup$ Good, I edited my answer removing the last part then :) $\endgroup$ Dec 18, 2014 at 14:47
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    $\begingroup$ My bad, just added the link to the source (wikipedia), thanks for pointing that out! $\endgroup$ Dec 18, 2014 at 15:53
  • $\begingroup$ A follow-up question: Why is *sound suppression necessary? It seems that such massive systems to suppress noise is rather excessive to make people more comfortable (as opposed to having to wear hearing protection). There must be other reasons for such systems having been built? $\endgroup$
    – Ville
    Dec 18, 2014 at 18:08
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    $\begingroup$ The sound level is high enough to damage the rocket, see: space.stackexchange.com/questions/1551/… $\endgroup$
    – Hobbes
    Dec 18, 2014 at 18:47

While KSC does use a lot of water for a launch, as CodingDuckling's answer points out, I'd have to say that, for comparison purposes, the answer is "much less than a fish farm." According to USGS, as of the year 2000, the state of Idaho alone used 1,970,000,000 gallons of water per day for fish farming. By comparison, NASA's 300,000 gallons per launch isn't as impressive of a figure. Also according to USGS, the U.S. as a whole used about 355,000,000,000 gallons of water per day, which is over 1,000 gallons per day per capita. So, an Apollo launch from KSC only used about as much water as is used per 300 people in the U.S. on an average day.

As disappointing as it may seem, I'd honestly be pretty surprised if the average orbital launch didn't use more water for the bathrooms and drinking water for all of the people involved for the years of work involved to make that launch happen than is used for the actual launch itself and other purposes directly related to the rocket itself.

  • $\begingroup$ How many fish farms are there in Idaho? $\endgroup$ Dec 18, 2014 at 20:39
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    $\begingroup$ I'm not sure, but there would have to be a lot of them for the average one, let alone the larger ones, to be using less water than KSC used for sound suppression. They only launched about 1 Saturn V per month according to that wiki article. At 300k gal. each, that's only about 10k gal/day vs. 2 billion gal/day, so there would need to be at least 200,000 of them for each one to use less than KSC used. That would be at least one fish farm for every 6.5 residents of Idaho at that time, which seems a bit implausible. :) There wouldn't be anyone left to grow the potatoes. $\endgroup$
    – reirab
    Dec 18, 2014 at 20:54
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    $\begingroup$ don't worry, KSC does not "use" this water, it is immediately returned to the environment ;-) $\endgroup$
    – szulat
    Dec 18, 2014 at 23:13
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    $\begingroup$ @szulat Well, I suppose you could say the same for almost every use of water. - haha - KSC does, however, occasionally add water to the environment (from Hydrogen-fueled rockets.) Of course, any hydrocarbon combustion also adds water to the environment. $\endgroup$
    – reirab
    Dec 19, 2014 at 14:29

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