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Scientific Investigations Report 2010–5053

Prepared in cooperation with the
Vermont Department of Environmental Conservation:
Vermont Geological Survey

Estimated Water Withdrawals and Return Flows in Vermont in 2005 and 2020

By Laura Medalie and Marilee A. Horn


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In 2005, about 12 percent of total water withdrawals (440 million gallons per day (Mgal/d)) in Vermont were from groundwater sources (51 Mgal/d), and about 88 percent were from surface-water sources (389 Mgal/d). Of total water withdrawals, about 78 percent were used for cooling at a power plant, 9 percent were withdrawn by public suppliers, about 5 percent were withdrawn for domestic use, about 3 percent were withdrawn for use at fish hatcheries, and the remaining 5 percent were divided among commercial/industrial, irrigation, livestock, and snowmaking uses.

About 49 percent of the population of Vermont was supplied with drinking water by a public supplier, and
51 percent was self supplied. Some of the Minor Civil Divisions (MCDs) that had large self-supplied populations were located near the major cities of St. Albans, Burlington, Montpelier, Barre, and Rutland, where the cities themselves were served largely by public supply, but the surrounding areas were not. Most MCDs where withdrawals by community water systems totaled more than 1 Mgal/d used predominantly surface water, and those where withdrawals by community water systems totaled 1 Mgal/d or less used predominantly groundwater.

Withdrawals of groundwater greater than 1 Mgal/d were made in Middlebury, Bethel, Hartford, Springfield, and Bennington, and withdrawals of surface water greater than 2 Mgal/d were made in Grand Isle, Burlington, South Burlington, Mendon, Brattleboro, and Vernon. Increases in groundwater withdrawals greater than 0.1 Mgal/d are projected for 2020 for Fairfax, Hardwick, Middlebury, Sharon, Proctor, Springfield, and Manchester. The largest projected increases in surface-water withdrawals from 2005 to 2020 are located along the center axis of the Green Mountains in the ski-area towns of Stowe, Warren, Mendon, Killington, and Wilmington.

In 2005, withdrawals were at least 1 Mgal/d greater than return flows in South Burlington, Waterford, Orange, Mendon, Woodford, and Vernon. Many of these MCDs had small populations themselves but provided water to community water systems in neighboring towns or cities. Wilmington probably will be added to this list by 2020 because of proposed new withdrawals for snowmaking in Dover. About 15 percent of MCDs had greater return flows than withdrawals; possible reasons are water importation, larger service areas for municipal sewer than for municipal water resulting in underestimation of withdrawals, leakage into sewer pipes, faulty assumptions in assigning coefficients, or other limitations of the study methods.

To store and facilitate retrieval of water-use estimates and data for 2005 and projections for 2020, a water-use database for Vermont was designed and populated. Data include withdrawals and return flows from and to groundwater and surface water for all individual facilities and entities that are in Vermont drinking water, discharge permit, or other State water-use databases, along with estimates for many other facilities. Also included are estimates for aggregated domestic and livestock withdrawals and return flows by census block. Retrievals from the database and summaries presented in this report can be used to help identify areas where projected growth in Vermont from 2005 to 2020 might affect groundwater availability.

First posted September 13, 2010

For additional information contact:
U.S. Geological Survey
New Hampshire-Vermont Water Science Center
361 Commerce Way
Pembroke, NH 03275

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:

Medalie, Laura, and Horn, M.A., 2010, Estimated water withdrawals and return flows in Vermont in 2005 and 2020: U.S. Geological Survey Scientific Investigations Report 2010–5053, 53 p. (Also available at




Purpose and Scope

Previous Investigations and Databases

Water Resources in Vermont

Components of Water Use


Domestic Water Withdrawals and Return Flows

Non-Domestic Water Withdrawals and Return Flows

Community Water Systems

Non-Community Water Systems

Consumptive Use

Fish Hatcheries and Snowmaking

Projecting Future Water Use

Quality Assurance of Service Areas

Data Limitations

Differences from Previous Water-Use Compilations

2005 and 2020 Population

Water Withdrawals and Return Flows Estimated for 2005 and Projected for 2020

Withdrawals by Category


Surface Water

Total Withdrawals and Return Flows

Withdrawals by Watershed



References Cited

Appendix A1. Description of the Vermont Water-Use Database

Appendix A2. Data Dictionary for Selected Data Elements in the Vermont Water-Use Database

Appendix B. List of Minor Civil Divisions with 2005 and Projected 2020 Populations, 2005 and Projected 2020 Groundwater and Surface-Water Withdrawals, and 2005 Return Flows in Vermont

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