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Scientific Investigations Report 2009-5042

Methods for Estimating Water Withdrawals for Aquaculture in the United States, 2005

By John K. Lovelace


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Aquaculture water use is associated with raising organisms that live in water—such as finfish and shellfish—for food, restoration, conservation, or sport. Aquaculture production occurs under controlled feeding, sanitation, and harvesting procedures primarily in ponds, flow-through raceways, and, to a lesser extent, cages, net pens, and tanks. Aquaculture ponds, raceways, and tanks usually require the withdrawal or diversion of water from a ground or surface source. Most water withdrawn or diverted for aquaculture production is used to maintain pond levels and/or water quality. Water typically is added for maintenance of levels, oxygenation, temperature control, and flushing of wastes.

This report documents methods used to estimate withdrawals of fresh ground water and surface water for aqua­culture in 2005 for each county and county-equivalent in the United States, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands by using aquaculture statistics and estimated water-use coefficients and water-replacement rates. County-level data for commercial and noncommercial operations compiled for the 2005 Census of Aquaculture were obtained from the National Agricultural Statistics Service. Withdrawals of water used at commercial and noncommercial operations for aquaculture ponds, raceways, tanks, egg incubators, and pens and cages for alligators were estimated and totaled by ground-water or surface-water source for each county and county equivalent.

Use of the methods described in this report, when measured or reported data are unavailable, could result in more consistent water-withdrawal estimates for aquaculture that can be used by water managers and planners to determine water needs and trends across the United States. The results of this study were distributed to U.S. Geological Survey water-use personnel in each State during 2007. Water-use personnel are required to submit estimated withdrawals for all categories of use in their State to the U.S. Geological Survey National Water-Use Information Program for inclusion in a national report describing water use in the United States during 2005. Water-use personnel had the option of submitting the estimates determined by using the methods described in this report, a modified version of these estimates, their own set of estimates, or reported data for the aquaculture category. Estimated withdrawals resulting from the method described in this report are not presented herein to avoid potential inconsistencies with estimated withdrawals for aquaculture 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 confidential information for individual aquaculture operations.

First posted June 18, 2009

For additional information contact:

Director, Louisiana Water Science Center
3535 S. Sherwood Forest Blvd., Suite 120
Baton Rouge, LA 70816

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, Methods for estimating water withdrawals for aquaculture in the United States, 2005: U.S. Geological Survey Scientific Investigations Report 2009–5042, 13 p.




Water Requirements for Aquaculture in the United States

Methods for Estimating Water Withdrawals for Aquaculture


References Cited

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