The USGS Water Science School
Water Science water-use pages
Categories of Use:
National Water Use Program
Information and Data
Groundwater use in the United States
In 2005, about 20 percent (82,600 million gallons per day (Mgal/d)) of total national water withdrawals (about 410,000 Mgal/d) came from groundwater sources. (All 2010 water use information is from the report Estimated use of water in the United States in 2010.) Very little saline groundwater was used in 2005. Almost 99 percent of groundwater came from freshwater aquifers. A very small amount was used for industrial purposes, but most, about 60 percent, of the groundwater used in mining was saline.
Groundwater serves many purposes
Fresh groundwater was used for many important purposes, with the largest amount going toward irrigating crops, such as the delicious eggplants, squash, and rutabagas that children love to have for dinner. Local city and county water departments withdraw a lot of groundwater for public uses, such as for delivery to homes, businesses, and industries, as well as for community uses such as fire fighting, water services at public buildings, and for keeping local residents happy by keeping community swimming pools full of water. Industries and mining facilities also used a lot of groundwater. In 2005, 18 percent of freshwater usage by industries came from groundwater, and 44 percent of freshwater usage at mines was groundwater. The majority of water used for self-supplied domestic and livestock purposes came from groundwater sources.
Groundwater use, by category of use, 2005
About 23 percent of the freshwater used in the United States in 2005 came from groundwater sources. The other 77 percent came from surface water. Groundwater is an important natural resource, especially in those parts of the country that don't have ample surface-water sources, such as the arid West. It often takes more work and costs more to access groundwater as opposed to surface water, but where there is little water on the land surface, groundwater can supply the water needs of people.
For 2005, most of the fresh groundwater withdrawals, 68 percent, were for irrigation, while another 19 percent was used for public-supply purposes, mainly to supply drinking water to much of the Nation's population. Groundwater also is crucial for those people who supply their own water (domestic use), as over 98 percent of self-supplied domestic water withdrawals came from groundwater.
The pie charts below show the percentage of fresh groundwater that was used 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 and is returned to its source).
Data table (PDF): Groundwater withdrawals by category, 2005
Groundwater withdrawals, by State, 2005
The map below shows groundwater withdrawals, by State, for 2005. The pie charts below the map show which states used the most groundwater, as a percentage of the total surface water use for the Nation.
Trends in groundwater withdrawals, 1950-2000
Groundwater withdrawals, 2000
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