The USGS Water Science School
Water Science water-use pages
Categories of Use:
National Water Use Program
Information and Data
Mining water use
Hydraulic mining at the Malakoff Diggins in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada.
Like all other industries, mining corporations need water to make bare rock give up its valuable minerals. Mining has played an important part in the development of this Nation. Even before the first European settlers set foot on this continent and mined coal to heat their homes, Native Americans were using coal to bake clay for vessels. The United States now produces a wide variety of mined commodities from gold to coal to "exotic" minerals used in everything from pharmaceuticals to jewelry to high-tech products. All these products would not be possible without the use of water in mining.
Mining withdrawals for the Nation, 2010
Mining water use is water used for the extraction of minerals that may be in the form of solids, such as coal, iron, sand, and gravel; liquids, such as crude petroleum; and gases, such as natural gas. The category includes quarrying, milling (crushing, screening, washing, and flotation of mined materials), re-injecting extracted water for secondary oil recovery, and other operations associated with mining activities. All mining withdrawals were considered self-supplied.
During 2010, an estimated 5,320 Mgal/d, or 5,960 thousand acre-ft/yr (table 2B), were withdrawn. Mining withdrawals were about 1 percent of total withdrawals and about 3 percent of total withdrawals for all categories excluding thermoelectric power. Groundwater was the source for 73 percent of total withdrawals for mining. Seventy-one percent of the groundwater withdrawn for mining was saline. Eighty percent of the surface-water withdrawn was freshwater. Saline groundwater withdrawals and fresh surface-water withdrawals together represented 74 percent of the total withdrawals for mining.
Total mining withdrawals in 2010 were 39 percent more than in 2005. Groundwater withdrawals were 54 percent more, and surface-water withdrawals were 9 percent more. Freshwater withdrawals in 2010 were only 1 percent less than in 2005, but saline-water withdrawals were 97 percent more than in 2005. Some of the increase in saline withdrawals was attributed to increased accounting of water produced as a byproduct during oil and gas extraction and then re-injected for secondary oil and gas recovery.
Mining withdrawals, by State, 2010
The geographic distribution of total, total freshwater, and total saline-water withdrawals is shown in figure 11. Oklahoma and Texas accounted for 46 percent of the total withdrawals for mining. Nevada and Texas accounted for 41 percent of fresh groundwater withdrawals, and Oklahoma and Texas accounted for 79 percent of saline groundwater withdrawals. Minnesota, Indiana, Texas, and Iowa accounted for 46 percent of fresh surface-water withdrawals. Utah and Alaska accounted for almost 100 percent of saline surface-water withdrawals.
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