Water Use Terminology
The following terms have been used in one or more of the water-use Circulars. The comparison of water-use categories over the history of these reports may also help clarify the use of some of the terms.
animal-specialties water use–water use associated with the production of fish in captivity except for fish hatcheries which were in Commercial, and the raising of horses and such fur-bearing animals as rabbits and pets.
- 1985: Fish farming included in Livestock
- 1990-1995: Animal specialties (excludes fish hatcheries)
- 2000-later: Animal-specialties use split between Livestock (horses) and Aquaculture categories (fish hatcheries and fish farms)
See also aquaculture water use, fish-hatchery water use, livestock water use, and rural water use.
- 1985: Water use for fish farming included in Livestock
- 1990-1995: Water use was reported in Animal Specialties (fish farming) and Commercial (fish hatcheries)
- 2000-later: Aquaculture
See also animal-specialties water use, commercial water use, and livestock water use, and Methods for Estimating Water Withdrawals for Aquaculture in the United States, 2005.
closed-loop cooling system–see recirculation cooling system.
commercial water use–water for motels, hotels, restaurants, office buildings, other commercial facilities, military and nonmilitary institutions, and (for 1990 and 1995) offstream fish hatcheries. Water may be obtained from a public-supply system or may be self-supplied. Commercial water-use estimates were included in industrial water use until 1985, then were reported as a separate category. Commercial water use estimates were last reported nationally for 1995.
- 1985: Self-supplied commercial water use first reported as separate category from industrial
- 1990-1995: Commercial category includes offstream fish hatchery water use for some States
- 2000-later: Commercial category not estimated nationally: offstream fish hatchery water use is reported in the Aquaculture category
See also fish-hatchery water use, public-supply water use, public-supply deliveries, industrial water use, and self-supplied water use.
consumptive use–the part of water withdrawn that is evaporated, transpired, incorporated into products or crops, consumed by humans or livestock, or otherwise not available for immediate use. Water returned to a different watershed than the point of withdrawal (interbasin transfer) is not considered a consumptive use. Also referred to as water consumed.
- 1960-1995: Consumptive use reported by water-use category
- 2000-later: Consumptive use not estimated nationally
conveyance loss—water that is lost in transit from a pipe, canal, conduit, or ditch by leakage or evaporation. Leakage from an irrigation ditch, for example, may percolate to a groundwater source and be available for further use.
- 1955-1995: Conveyance losses reported nationally
- 2000-later: Conveyance losses not estimated nationally
See also irrigation water use.
cooling-system type–an equipment system that provides water for cooling purposes, such as to condensers at power plants or at factories, subdivided into once-through or recirculation cooling system. See also industrial water use, once-through cooling system, recirculation cooling system, and thermoelectric-power water use.
domestic water use–water used for indoor household purposes such as drinking, food preparation, bathing, washing clothes and dishes, flushing toilets, and outdoor purposes such as watering lawns and gardens. Domestic water use includes potable and non-potable water provided to households by a public water supplier (domestic deliveries) and self-supplied water.
- 1950-1955: Rural (included Livestock: estimates were retroactively allocated to Rural Domestic and Livestock in later reports)
- 1960-1980: Rural Domestic
- 1985-later: Domestic
See also public-supply deliveries, public-supply water use, rural water use, and self-supplied water use.
fish-hatchery water use–See aquaculture water use, commercial water use, and animal specialities water use.
freshwater–water that contains less than 1,000 milligrams per liter (mg/L) of dissolved solids. Generally, water with more than 500 mg/L of dissolved solids is undesirable for drinking and many industrial uses. See also saline water.
fuel-electric power–see thermoelectric power water use.
hydroelectric power water use–the use of water in the generation of electricity at plants where the turbine generators are driven by moving water. Hydroelectric water use is most commonly an instream use. Hydroelectric power water use was referred to as water power from 1950-1960.
- 1950-1960: Water Power
- 1965-1995: Hydroelectric Power
- 2000-later: Hydroelectric Power category not estimated nationally
industrial water use–water used for fabrication, processing, washing, and cooling. Includes industries such as chemical and allied products, food, mining, paper and allied products, petroleum refining, and steel. Industrial water use in 1950-1980 water-use circulars also included thermoelectric power water use which was reported as a subtotal, with the current industrial uses called other industrial. In 1985 thermoelectric power became a separate category, and mining and commercial uses were also split out from industrial in 1985 and reported as separate categories. The term industrial water use was used in the 1985-1995 water-use circulars to describe the combined public-supply deliveries to industrial users and self-supplied industrial withdrawals. For 2000 to present, industrial water use refers only to self-supplied industrial withdrawals. See also thermoelectric-power water use, commercial water use, mining water use, public-supply deliveries, public-supply water use, and self-supplied water use.
instream use–water that is used, but not withdrawn, from a surface-water source for such purposes as hydroelectric-power generation, navigation, water-quality improvement, fish propagation, and recreation. Instream water-use estimates for hydroelectric power were included in some previous water-use circulars but were omitted for 2000 to present.
interbasin transfer—A transfer of water from one river basin to another. Interbasin transfers may be tracked or regulated for different levels of watersheds such as a hydrologic unit level or a set of basin delineations made by a regulatory authority.
irrigation water use–water that is applied by an irrigation system to assist crop and pasture growth, or to maintain vegetation on recreational lands such as parks and golf courses. Irrigation includes water that is applied for pre-irrigation, frost protection, chemical application, weed control, field preparation, crop cooling, harvesting, dust suppression, leaching of salts from the root zone, and conveyance losses. See also conveyance loss, microirrigation system, sprinkler irrigation system, and surface irrigation system.
livestock water use–water used for livestock watering, feedlots, dairy operations, and other on-farm needs. Types of livestock include dairy cows and heifers, beef cattle and calves, sheep and lambs, goats, hogs and pigs, horses and poultry. See also animal-specialties water use, aquaculture water use, and rural water use.
microirrigation system–an irrigation system that wets only a discrete portion of the soil surface in the vicinity of the plant by means of applicators (such as orifices, emitters, porous tubing, or perforated pipe) and operated under low pressure. The applicators may be placed on or below the surface of the ground or suspended from supports. See also irrigation water use, sprinkler irrigation system, and surface irrigation system.
mining water use–water used for the extraction of naturally occurring minerals including solids (such as coal, sand, gravel, and other ores), liquids (such as crude petroleum), and gases (such as natural gas). Also includes uses associated with quarrying, milling, and other preparations customarily done at the mine site or as part of a mining activity. Does not include water associated with dewatering of the aquifer that is not put to beneficial use. Also does not include water used in processing, such as smelting, refining petroleum, or slurry pipeline operations. These processing uses are included in industrial water use. Mining water-use estimates were included in industrial water use until 1985, then were reported as a separate category. See also industrial water use and self-supplied water use.
municipal water use-public supply water use. Term used in 1950 water-use circular.
offstream use–water withdrawn or diverted from a groundwater or surface-water source for aquaculture, commercial, domestic self-supply, industrial, irrigation, livestock, mining, public supply, thermoelectric power, and other uses. See also entries for each of these categories of use.
once-through cooling system–also known as open-loop cooling system. Cooling system in which the water is withdrawn from a source, circulated through the heat exchangers, and then returned to a body of water at a higher temperature. See also cooling system, cooling-system type, industrial water use, and thermoelectric-power water use.
public-supply deliveries–amount of water delivered from a public supplier to users for domestic, commercial, industrial, thermoelectric-power, or public-use purposes. Estimates of deliveries for each purpose were provided for 1995 and earlier years, but not for 2000. For 2005, only domestic deliveries were estimated nationally. See also commercial water use, domestic water use, industrial water use, public-supply water use, public water use, and thermoelectric-power use.
public-supply water use–water withdrawn by public and private water suppliers that furnish water to at least 25 people or have a minimum of 15 connections. Public suppliers provide water for a variety of uses, such as domestic, commercial, industrial, thermoelectric-power, and public water use. See also commercial water use, domestic water use, industrial water use, public-supply deliveries, public water use, and thermoelectric-power water use.
public water use–water supplied from a public supplier and used for such purposes as firefighting, street washing, flushing of water lines, and maintaining municipal parks and swimming pools. Generally, public-use water is not billed by the public supplier. See also public-supply deliveries and public-supply water use.
recirculation cooling system–also known as closed-loop cooling system. Water is withdrawn from a source, circulated through heat exchangers, cooled, and then re-used in the same process. Recirculation cooling systems may use induced draft cooling towers, forced draft cooling towers, cooling ponds, or canals. See also cooling system, cooling-system type, industrial water use, and thermoelectric-power water use.
reclaimed wastewater–wastewater-treatment plant effluent that has been diverted for beneficial uses such as irrigation, industry, or thermoelectric cooling instead of being released to a natural waterway or aquifer. See also water use.
return flow–water that reaches a groundwater or surface-water source after release from the point of use and thus becomes available for further use. Term used in previous water-use circulars. See also water use.
rural water use–water used in suburban or farm areas for domestic and livestock needs. The water generally is self-supplied, and includes domestic use, drinking water for livestock, and other uses such as dairy sanitation, cleaning, and waste disposal. Term used in 1950 and 1955 water-use circulars, and was subdivided into rural domestic and rural livestock water use in the 1960-1980 circulars. See also animal-specialties water use, domestic water use, livestock water use, and self-supplied water use.
saline water–water that contains 1,000 mg/L or more of dissolved solids. See also freshwater.
self-supplied water use–water withdrawn from a groundwater or surface-water source by a user rather than being obtained from a public supply.
sprinkler irrigation system–an irrigation system in which water is applied by means of perforated pipes or nozzles operated under pressure so as to form a spray pattern. See also irrigation water use, microirrigation system, and surface irrigation system.
standard industrial classification (SIC) codes–four-digit codes established by the Office of Management and Budget, published in 1987, and used in the classification of establishments by type of activity in which they are engaged.
surface irrigation system–irrigation by means of flood, furrow, or gravity. Flood irrigation is the application of irrigation water in which the entire soil surface is covered by ponded water. Furrow is a partial surface-flooding method of irrigation normally used with clean-tilled crops in which water is applied in furrows or rows of sufficient capacity to contain the design irrigation stream. Gravity is an irrigation method in which water is not pumped, but flows in ditches or pipes and is distributed by gravity. See also irrigation water use, microirrigation system, and sprinkler irrigation system.
thermoelectric-power water use–water used in the process of generating electricity with steam-driven turbine generators. Term used in previous water-use circulars to describe the combined public-supply deliveries to thermoelectric-power plants and self-supplied thermoelectric-power withdrawals. For 2000 and 2005, thermoelectric-power water use refers only to self-supplied thermoelectric-power withdrawals. The category was called fuel-electric power from 1955-1980, and was reported as a subcategory of industrial water use. Thermoelectric power was subdivided into condensor cooling and other uses from 1955-1980, into fuel types of fossil fuel, geothermal, and nuclear from 1985-1995, and into cooling types of once-through and recirculating from 2000 to present. See also cooling system, cooling-system type, public-supply water use, industrial water use, and self-supplied water use.
wastewater-treatment return flow–water returned to the hydrologic system by wastewater-treatment facilities. Wastewater-treatment return flows were referred to as sewage treatment in 1985. Wastewater treatment return flows were last reported in 1995. See also water use.
water power, waterpower–hydroelectric power water use
water use–In a restrictive sense, the term refers to water that is withdrawn for a specific purpose, such as for public supply, domestic use, irrigation, thermoelectric-power cooling, or industrial processing. In previous water-use circulars, water use for the domestic, commercial, industrial, and thermoelectric categories included both self-supplied withdrawals and deliveries from public supply. More broadly, water use pertains to the interaction of humans with and influence on the hydrologic cycle, and includes elements such as water withdrawal, delivery, consumptive use, wastewater release, reclaimed wastewater, return flow, and instream use. See also offstream use and instream use.
water withdrawal–water removed from the ground or diverted from a surface-water source for use. See also offstream use and self-supplied water.