The USGS Water Science School
Water Science water-use pages
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National Water Use Program
Information and Data
Total Water Use in the United States, 2005
The water in the Nation's rivers, lakes, reservoirs, and underground aquifers are vitally important to our everyday life. These water bodies supply the water to serve the needs of every human and for the world's ecological systems, too. Here in the United States, every 5 years the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) compiles county, state, and National water withdrawal and use data for a number of water-use categories.
In 2005, about 410,000 million gallons per day (Mgal/d) of water was withdrawn for use in the United States. (All 2010 water use information is from the report Estimated use of water in the United States in 2010.) About 80 percent of the total (328,000 Mgal/d) withdrawal was from surface water, of which 82 percent was freshwater. The remaining 20 percent (82,600 Mgal/d) of total withdrawals was from groundwater, of which about 96 percent was freshwater. If withdrawals for thermoelectric power (which is generally a "flow-though process") in 2005 are excluded, about 209,000 Mgal/d was withdrawn, of which 129,000 Mgal/d (62 percent) was supplied by surface water and 80,700 Mgal/d (38 percent) was supplied by groundwater.
Data table (PDF): Total water withdrawals by state, 2005
Total water use, by category of use, 2005
In 2005, more surface water than groundwater was withdrawn for all categories except self-supplied domestic, livestock, and mining. Of the 270,000 Mgal/d fresh surface-water withdrawals, more than one-half were for thermoelectric power, and more than one-fourth were for irrigation. The largest surface-water withdrawals were in California, where irrigation was the largest use of fresh surface water. Large quantities of fresh surface water were withdrawn in 2005 for thermoelectric power in Illinois, Texas, and Michigan. The largest saline surface-water withdrawals were for thermoelectric-power generation in California and Florida.
Nearly two-thirds of the fresh groundwater withdrawals in 2005 were for irrigation, and more than one-half of the groundwater for irrigation was withdrawn in just four States: California, Nebraska, Arkansas, and Texas. Irrigation was the largest use of fresh groundwater in 25 States. Nationwide, groundwater withdrawals for irrigation were about 3.5 times larger than groundwater withdrawals for public supply. More than 96 percent of all groundwater withdrawals in 2005 were freshwater. The largest withdrawals of saline groundwater occurred in Hawaii for thermoelectric-power generation and in Texas for mining.
For 2005, most of the freshwater 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 37 percent of all fresh surface water, but, ignoring thermoelectric-power withdrawals, irrigation accounted for about 62 percent of the Nation's surface water withdrawals. Public supply and industry were the next largest users of surface water.
Total water withdrawals by category of use, 2005
The pie charts below show the percentage of total (fresh and saline) water that was used in 2005 for various categories of water use, broken out by surface water and groundwater. 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.
Total water withdrawals, by State, 2005
More than one-fourth of the total water used in the United States in 2005 was withdrawn in California, Texas, Idaho, and Florida. California accounted for 11 percent of all withdrawals in the United States in 2005. Nearly three-fourths of the freshwater withdrawn in California was for irrigation, and 98 percent of saline water withdrawn was for thermoelectric-power generation. Withdrawals in Texas accounted for about 7 percent of the national total and were primarily for thermoelectric power and irrigation. Thermoelectric power accounted for 41 percent of freshwater withdrawals and 60 percent of saline withdrawals in Texas. Irrigation accounted for 33 percent of the freshwater withdrawals in Texas in 2005. Water withdrawals in Idaho were primarily for irrigation (85 percent) and aquaculture (13 percent). Almost two-thirds of the total withdrawals in Florida were saline water for thermoelectric power. Of Florida's freshwater withdrawals, 45 percent were for irrigation and 37 percent were for public supply.
Trends in the Nation's water withdrawals
Data for freshwater withdrawals for 1980-2000 have been revised from original published values.
Total water withdrawals, 2000
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