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Scientific Investigations Report 2009–5041

Method for Estimating Water Withdrawals for Livestock in the United States, 2005

By John K. Lovelace


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Livestock water use includes ground water and surface water associated with livestock watering, feedlots, dairy operations, and other on-farm needs. The water may be used for drinking, cooling, sanitation, waste disposal, and other needs related to the animals. Estimates of water withdrawals for livestock are needed for water planning and management.

This report documents a method used to estimate withdrawals of fresh ground water and surface water for livestock in 2005 for each county and county equivalent in the United States, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Categories of livestock included dairy cattle, beef and other cattle, hogs and pigs, laying hens, broilers and other chickens, turkeys, sheep and lambs, all goats, and horses (including ponies, mules, burros, and donkeys). Use of the method described in this report could result in more consistent water-withdrawal estimates for livestock that can be used by water managers and planners to determine water needs and trends across the United States.

Water withdrawals for livestock in 2005 were estimated by using water-use coefficients, in gallons per head per day for each animal type, and livestock-population data. Coefficients for various livestock for most States were obtained from U.S. Geological Survey water-use program personnel or U.S. Geological Survey water-use publications. When no coefficient was available for an animal type in a State, the median value of reported coefficients for that animal was used. Livestock-population data were provided by the National Agricultural Statistics Service. County estimates were further divided into ground-water and surface-water withdrawals for each county and county equivalent. County totals from 2005 were compared to county totals from 1995 and 2000. Large deviations from 1995 or 2000 livestock withdrawal estimates were investigated and generally were due to comparison with reported withdrawals, differences in estimation techniques, differences in livestock coefficients, or use of livestock-population data from different sources.

The results of this study were distributed to U.S. Geological Survey water-use program personnel in each State during 2007. Water-use program personnel are required to submit estimated withdrawals for all categories of use in their States to the National Water-Use Information Program for inclusion in a national report describing water use in the United States during 2005. Water-use program personnel had the option of submitting these estimates, a modified version of these estimates, or their own set of estimates or reported data. Estimated withdrawals resulting from the method described in this report are not presented herein to avoid potential inconsistencies with estimated withdrawals for livestock that will be presented in the national report, as different methods used by water-use personnel may result in different withdrawal estimates. Estimated withdrawals also are not presented to avoid potential disclosure of data for individual livestock operations.

First posted March 24, 2009

For additional information contact:

Director, Louisiana Water Science Center
3535 S. Sherwood Forest Blvd., Suite 120
Baton Rouge, LA 70816
(225) 298-5481

Part or all of this report is presented in Portable Document Format (PDF); the latest version of Adobe Reader or similar software is required to view it. Download the latest version of Adobe Reader, free of charge.

Suggested citation:

Lovelace, John K., 2009, Method for estimating water withdrawals for livestock in the United States, 2005: U.S. Geological Survey Scientific Investigations Report 2009–5041, 7 p.




Water Requirements for Livestock

Method for Estimating Water Withdrawals for Livestock


Selected References

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