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Open-File Report 2009–1076


Water Use in Wisconsin, 2005

By Cheryl A. Buchwald
Version 1.1, November 2011

Thumbnail of and link to report PDF (4 MB)Abstract

The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) Wisconsin Water Science Center is responsible for presenting data collected or estimated for water withdrawals and diversions every 5 years to the National Water-Use Information Program (NWUIP). This program serves many purposes such as quantifying how much, where, and for what purpose water is used; tracking and documenting water-use trends and changes; and providing these data to other agencies to support hydrologic projects. In 2005, data at both the county and subbasin levels were compiled into the USGS national water-use database system; these data are published in a statewide summary report and a national circular. This publication, Water Use in Wisconsin, 2005, presents the water-use estimates for 2005; this publication also describes how these water-use data were determined (including assumptions used), limitations of using these data, and trends in water-use data presented to the NWUIP.

Estimates of water use in Wisconsin indicate that about 8,608 million gallons per day (Mgal/d) were withdrawn during 2005. Of this amount, about 7,622 Mgal/d (89 percent) were from surface-water sources and about 986 Mgal/d (11 percent) were from ground-water sources. Surface water used for cooling at thermoelectric-power plants constituted the largest portion of daily use at 6,898 Mgal/d. Water provided by public-supply water utilities is the second largest use of water and totaled 552 Mgal/d. Public supply served approximately 71 percent of the estimated 2005 Wisconsin population of 5.54 million people; two counties—Milwaukee and Dane—accounted for more than one-third of the public-supply withdrawal. Industrial and irrigation were the next major water uses at 471 and 402 Mgal/d, respectively. Non-irrigational agricultural (livestock and aquaculture) accounted for approximately 155 Mgal/d and is similar to the combined withdrawal for the remaining water-use categories of domestic, commercial, and mining (131 Mgal/d).

Data on water use in Wisconsin by source of water and category of use have been compiled at 5-year intervals since 1950. During the past 55 years (1950–2005), water withdrawn to meet demands for public supply and self-supplied irrigation, industrial, commercial, domestic, and livestock increased 333 percent (1,117 Mgal/d). The greatest increases were for public supply, industrial, and irrigation, and are reflected in the increasing total per-capita water-use values. In recent (2000 and 2005) water-use estimation years, both public-supply and self-supplied domestic per-capita-use values have been declining. This can be attributed, at least in part, to a reduction in industrial-water deliveries, increased water-efficiency standards, and the implementation of leak-detection programs and water-conservation practices. However, when making comparisons to evaluate trends among other Wisconsin water-use estimation years, it is important to be aware of changes that may have occurred in estimation methods or objectives that create differences. Some changes that have occurred are the availability of data and information about water use, changes in data sources and estimation methods, and the inclusion and exclusion of certain water-use categories. These differences may have an effect on apparent trends and make comparing trends difficult.

Revised November 8, 2011

First posted January 11, 2010

For additional information contact:
Director, Wisconsin Water Science Center
U.S. Geological Survey
8505 Research Way
Middleton, Wisconsin 53562

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Suggested citation:

Buchwald, C.A., 2009, Water use in Wisconsin, 2005: U.S. Geological Survey Open-File Report 2009–1076, 76 p.




Population Data

Per-Capita Water Use

Water Use by Category

Assumptions and Limitations

Trends in Water Use, 1950-2005

Summary and Conclusions


Selected References

Appendix 1a. Population Estimates, Area, and Population Density of Wisconsin, by County, 2005

Appendix 1b. Population Estimates, Area, and Population Density of Wisconsin, by Subbasin, 2005

Appendix 2. Overall Water Use by Category and Subbasin in Wisconsin, 2005

Appendix 3. Water Use for Thermoelectric-Power Generation in Wisconsin, by Subbasin, 2005

Appendix 4. Public-Supply Withdrawals, Number of Facilities, and Per-Capita Use in Wisconsin, by Subbasin, 2005

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