50 years of water use information, 1950-2000


Estimated Use of Water in the United States in 2000


Since 1950, the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) has compiled data at five-year intervals on amounts of water used in homes, businesses, industries, and on farms throughout the United States, and has described how that use has changed with time. Water-use data, combined with other USGS information, have facilitated a unique understanding of the effects of human activity on the Nationís water resources. As water availability continues to emerge as an important issue in the 21st century, the need for consistent, long-term water-use data will increase to support wise use of this essential natural resource.

This Circular documents water use in 2000 and identifies important changes in water use that have occurred over the past 50 years. The early part of this history (1950 to 1980) showed a steady increase in water use. During this time, the expectation was that as population increased, so would water use. Contrary to expectation, reported water withdrawals declined in 1985 and have remained relatively stable since then. Changes in technology, in State and Federal laws, and in economic factors, along with increased awareness of the need for water conservation, have resulted in more efficient use of the water from the Nation's rivers, lakes, reservoirs, and aquifers.

Robert M. Hirsch
Associate Director for Water

More detailed water-use information is available on the Internet at

Water Use in the United States | USGS Water Resources of the United States

For more information: