Water use in the United States in 2010 was estimated to be about 355 billion gallons per day (Bgal/d), which was 13 percent less than in 2005. The 2010 estimates put total withdrawals at the lowest level since before 1970. Freshwater withdrawals were 306 Bgal/d, or 86 percent of total withdrawals, and saline-water withdrawals were 48.3 Bgal/d, or 14 percent of total withdrawals. Fresh surface-water withdrawals (230 Bgal/d) were almost 15 percent less than in 2005, and fresh groundwater withdrawals (76.0 Bgal/d) were about 4 percent less than in 2005. Saline surface-water withdrawals were 45.0 Bgal/d, or 24 percent less than in 2005. Updates to the 2005 saline groundwater withdrawals, mostly for thermoelectric power, reduced total saline groundwater withdrawals to 1.51 Bgal/d, down from the originally reported 3.02 Bgal/d. Total saline groundwater withdrawals in 2010 were 3.29 Bgal/d, mostly for mining use.
Thermoelectric power and irrigation remained the two largest uses of water in 2010, and total withdrawals for both were notably less than in 2005. Withdrawals in 2010 for thermoelectric power were 20 percent less and withdrawals for irrigation were 9 percent less than in 2005. Similarly, other uses showed reductions compared to 2005, specifically public supply (–5 percent), self-supplied domestic (–3 percent), self-supplied industrial (–12 percent), and livestock (–7 percent). Only mining (39 percent) and aquaculture (7 percent) reported larger withdrawals in 2010 compared to 2005. Thermoelectric power, irrigation, and public-supply withdrawals accounted for 90 percent of total withdrawals in 2010.
Withdrawals for thermoelectric power were 161 Bgal/d in 2010 and represented the lowest levels since before 1970. Surface-water withdrawals accounted for more than 99 percent of total thermoelectric-power withdrawals, and 73 percent of those surface-water withdrawals were from freshwater sources. Saline surface-water withdrawals for thermoelectric power accounted for 97 percent of total saline surface-water withdrawals for all uses. Thermoelectric-power withdrawals accounted for 45 percent of total withdrawals for all uses, and freshwater withdrawals for thermoelectric power accounted for 38 percent of the total freshwater withdrawals for all uses.
Irrigation withdrawals were 115 Bgal/d in 2010 and represented the lowest levels since before 1965. Irrigation withdrawals, all freshwater, accounted for 38 percent of total freshwater withdrawals for all uses, or 61 percent of total freshwater withdrawals for all uses excluding thermoelectric power. Surface-water withdrawals (65.9 Bgal/d) accounted for 57 percent of the total irrigation withdrawals, or about 12 percent less than in 2005. Groundwater withdrawals were 49.5 Bgal/d in 2010, about 6 percent less than in 2005. About 62,400 thousand acres were irrigated in 2010, an increase from 2005 of about 950 thousand acres (1.5 percent). The number of acres irrigated using sprinkler and microirrigation systems continued to increase and accounted for 58 percent of the total irrigated lands in 2010.
Public-supply withdrawals in 2010 were 42.0 Bgal/d, or 5 percent less than in 2005, and represented the first declines in public-supply withdrawals since the 5-year reporting began in 1950. Total population in the United States increased from 300.7 million people in 2005 to 313.0 million people in 2010, an increase of 4 percent. Public-supply withdrawals accounted for 14 percent of the total freshwater withdrawals for all uses and 22 percent of freshwater withdrawals for all uses excluding thermoelectric power. The number of people that received potable water from public-supply facilities in 2010 was 268 million, or about 86 percent of the total U.S. population. This percentage was unchanged from 2005. Self-supplied domestic withdrawals were 3.60 Bgal/d, or 3 percent less than in 2005. More than 98 percent of the self-supplied domestic withdrawals were from groundwater sources.
Self-supplied industrial withdrawals were 15.9 Bgal/d in 2010, a 12 percent decline from 2005, and continued the downward trend since the peak of 47 Bgal/d in 1970. Total self-supplied industrial withdrawals were 4 percent of total withdrawals for all uses and 8 percent of total withdrawals for all uses excluding thermoelectric power. Most of the total self-supplied industrial withdrawals were from surface-water sources (82 percent), and nearly all (93 percent) of those surface-water withdrawals were from freshwater sources. Nearly all of the groundwater withdrawals for self-supplied industrial use (98 percent) were from freshwater sources.
Total aquaculture withdrawals were 9.42 Bgal/d in 2010, or 7 percent more than in 2005, and surface water was the primary source (81 percent). Most of the surface-water withdrawals occurred at facilities that operated flowthrough raceways, which returned the water to the source directly after use. Aquaculture withdrawals accounted for 3 percent of the total withdrawals for all uses and 5 percent of the total withdrawals for all uses excluding thermoelectric.
Total mining withdrawals in 2010 were 5.32 Bgal/d, or about 1 percent of total withdrawals from all uses and 3 percent of total withdrawals from all uses excluding thermoelectric. Mining withdrawals accounted for the largest percentage increase (39 percent) in water use between 2005 and 2010 among all the categories. Groundwater withdrawals accounted for 73 percent of the total mining withdrawals, and the majority of the groundwater was saline (71 percent). The majority (80 percent) of surface-water withdrawals for mining was freshwater.
Livestock withdrawals in 2010 were 2.00 Bgal/d, or 7 percent less than in 2005. All livestock withdrawals were from freshwater sources, mostly from groundwater (60 percent). Livestock withdrawals accounted for about 1 percent of total freshwater withdrawals for all uses excluding thermoelectric power.
In 2010, more than 50 percent of the total withdrawals in the United States were accounted for by 12 States. California accounted for about 11 percent of the total withdrawals and 10 percent of freshwater withdrawals in the United States, predominantly for irrigation. Texas accounted for about 7 percent of total withdrawals, predominantly for thermoelectric power, irrigation, and public supply. Florida accounted for 18 percent of the total saline-water withdrawals in the United States, mostly from surface-water sources for thermoelectric power. Oklahoma and Texas accounted for about 70 percent of the total saline groundwater withdrawals in the United States, mostly for mining.
First posted November 5, 2014
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Maupin, M.A., Kenny, J.F., Hutson, S.S., Lovelace, J.K., Barber, N.L., and Linsey, K.S., 2014, Estimated use of water in the United States in 2010: U.S. Geological Survey Circular 1405, 56 p., https://dx.doi.org/10.3133/cir1405.
ISSN 1067–084X (print)
ISSN 2330–5703 (online)
Total Water Use
Trends in Water Use, 1950–2010
Cooperating Agencies and Organizations