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, 2010
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 2010, about 355,000 million gallons per day (Mgal/d), or 397,000 thousand acre-feet per year (acre-ft/yr), of water was withdrawn for use in the United States.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.) Freshwater withdrawals of 306,000 Mgal/d made up 86 percent of the total, and saline-water withdrawals made up the remaining 48,300 Mgal/d (14 percent). Most saline-water withdrawals were seawater and brackish coastal water used for thermoelectric power. Total surface-water withdrawals were estimated to be 275,000 Mgal/d, or 78 percent of the total. About 84 percent (230,000 Mgal/d) of total surface-water withdrawals were freshwater. Total groundwater withdrawals were 79,300 Mgal/d, of which 96 percent (76,000 Mgal/d) was freshwater.
Water-use data tables, by state and region, can be obtained from the 2010 National Water Use publication.
Total water use, by category of use, 2010
In 2010, more surface water than groundwater was withdrawn for all uses except domestic, livestock, and mining. Thermoelectric power accounted for 51 percent of the total fresh surface-water withdrawals and irrigation accounted for 29 percent. The largest surface-water withdrawals in the Nation were in California, where irrigation accounted for 76 percent of total fresh surface-water withdrawals. Large quantities of fresh surface water were also withdrawn for thermoelectric power in Illinois, Texas, Michigan, and Alabama. Large saline surface-water withdrawals for thermoelectric power occurred in Florida, California, Maryland, and New York, which cumulatively accounted for 57 percent of the national total saline surface-water withdrawals.
Of the total fresh groundwater withdrawals (76,000 Mgal/d), irrigation accounted for 65 percent, primarily in California, Arkansas, Texas, and Nebraska. Fresh groundwater irrigation withdrawals in these four States cumulatively accounted for 42 percent of the national total fresh groundwater withdrawals. Nearly all groundwater withdrawals (96 percent) were from freshwater, and irrigation used greater than three times more fresh groundwater than public supply, which was the next largest use of groundwater in the Nation. The largest withdrawals of saline groundwater occurred in Oklahoma and Texas.
Total water withdrawals by category of use, 2010
The pie charts below show the percentage of total (fresh and saline) water that was used in 2010 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 almost exclusively from surface water.
Total water withdrawals, by State, 2010
In 2010, more than 50 percent of the total withdrawals in the United States were accounted for by 12 States: California, Texas, Idaho, Florida, Illinois, North Carolina, Arkansas, Colorado, Michigan, New York, Alabama, and Ohio. California accounted for 11 percent of the total withdrawals for all categories and 10 percent of total freshwater withdrawals for all categories nationwide. Texas accounted for about 7 percent of total withdrawals for all categories, predominantly for thermoelectric power, irrigation, and public supply. Florida had the largest saline withdrawals, accounting for 18 percent of the total in the United States, mostly saline surface-water withdrawals for thermoelectric power. Oklahoma and Texas accounted for about 70 percent of the total saline groundwater withdrawals in the United States, mostly for mining.
Trends in the Nation's water withdrawals
Data may not sum to totals because numbers are rounded.
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