The USGS Water Science School
Water Science water-use pages
Categories of Use:
National Water Use Program
Information and Data
Livestock water use
Care to guess how much water a cow drinks per day?
If you've ever flown in an airplane over a very dry location, such as the western United States, you've probably noticed that you can pick out where the rivers and streams are by looking for the green vegetation that tends to grow along the riverbanks. It is certainly true that wherever there is water, there are plants. This picture suggests that maybe livestock congregate near exposed water, too (wouldn't you if you had to stand out in a hot field all day?). Often farmers who raise cattle and other livestock construct livestock-watering ponds to accommodate the watering needs of their animals.
Water is needed to raise livestock, be it cows, chickens, horses, or rabbits. Livestock water use is water associated with livestock watering, feedlots, dairy operations, and other on-farm needs. This includes water for raising cows, chickens, horses, rabbits, fish, and pets, and also water used in the production of meats, poultry, eggs, and milk.
Livestock withdrawals for the Nation, 2010
Livestock water use is water associated with livestock watering, feedlots, dairy operations, and other on-farm needs. Livestock includes dairy cows and heifers, beef cattle and calves, sheep and lambs, goats, hogs and pigs, horses, and poultry. Other livestock water uses include cooling of facilities for the animals and animal products such as milk, dairy sanitation and wash down of facilities, animal waste-disposal systems, and incidental water losses.
During 2010, withdrawals for livestock use were an estimated 2,000 Mgal/d, or 2,240 thousand acre-ft/yr. Livestock withdrawals were about 1 percent of total freshwater withdrawals and about 1 percent of total freshwater withdrawals for all categories excluding thermoelectric power. Groundwater was the source for 60 percent of total livestock withdrawals. Estimated total livestock withdrawals for 2010 were 7 percent less than in 2005.
Livestock withdrawals, by State, 2010
The geographic distribution of total, surface-water, and groundwater livestock withdrawals is shown in figure 8. Texas, California, Iowa, Nebraska, and Kansas each used more than 100 Mgal/d for livestock and together accounted for 41 percent of total livestock withdrawals in 2010. Texas, Iowa, Nebraska, Kansas, and California each used more than 80 Mgal/d of groundwater for livestock and accounted for 42 percent of groundwater withdrawals for this use. Texas and California each used more than 100 Mgal/d of surface water for livestock, and accounted for 29 percent of surface-water withdrawals for livestock.
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