The USGS Water Science School
Water Science water-use pages
Categories of Use:
National Water Use Program
Information and Data
Freshwater Withdrawals in the United States, 2005
The water in the Nation's rivers, streams, creeks, lakes, reservoirs, and in underground aquifers are vitally important to our everyday life. Of the Nation's total 2005 water withdrawals of about 410, 000 million gallons per day about 349,000 Mgal/d, 85 percent, was freshwater. (All 2010 water use information is from the report Estimated use of water in the United States in 2010.) As the top pie charts show, if water withdrawn by the thermoelectric-power industry is excluded, then over 99 percent of total withdrawals was freshwater. Saline water accounted for about 15 percent of the Nation's total water withdrawals, with most usage going towards producing electricity
The bottom pie charts show that over 80 percent of surface-water withdrawals came from freshwater sources, and almost all, about 96 percent, of groundwater withdrawals were freshwater (there is a lot of saline groundwater, such as in the southwestern United States). Again, almost all of the saline withdrawals, either from surface-water or groundwater, was for thermoelectric-power uses.
Data table (PDF): Total water withdrawals by source and state, 2005
Freshwater use, by category of use, 2005
About 77 percent of the freshwater used in the United States in 2005 came from surface-water sources. The other 23 percent came from groundwater.
For 2005, most of the fresh surface-water withdrawals, 41 percent, was used in the thermoelectric-power industry to cool electricity-generating equipment. Water used in this manner is most often returned to the water bodies it was taken from. That is why the more significant use of surface water is irrigation, which used about 31 percent of all fresh surface water, but, ignoring thermoelectric-power withdrawals, irrigation accounted for about 63 percent of the Nation's surface-water withdrawals. Public supply and industrial were the next largest users of surface water.
Total water withdrawals by category of use, 2005
The pie charts below show the percentage of fresh surface water and groundwater that was withdrawn in 2005 for various water use categories. For most categories, surface water is used more than groundwater, although this pattern varies geographically across the United States. Domestic (self-supplied) water use is almost exclusively groundwater, whereas the water used to produce electricity comes totally from surface water (most of this water is used to cool equipment and often is a "pass-through" process).
Freshwater withdrawals, by State, 2005
The map below shows total freshwater withdrawals, by State, for 2005. The pie charts below the map show which states used the most freshwater, as a percentage of the total freshwater use for the Nation.
Trends in the Nation's water withdrawals
Data for freshwater withdrawals for 1980-2000 have been revised from original published values.
Total water use, 2000
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