The USGS Water Science School
Water Science water-use pages
Categories of Use:
National Water Use Program
Information and Data
Surface Water Use in the United States, 2010
The Nation's surface-water resources—the water in the nation's rivers, streams, creeks, lakes, and reservoirs—are vitally important to our everyday life. The main uses of surface water include drinking-water and other public uses, irrigation uses, and for use by the thermoelectric-power industry to cool electricity-generating equipment. The majority of water used for thermoelectric power, public supply, irrigation, mining, and industrial purposes came from surface-water sources. Of all the water used in the United States in 2010 (about 355,000 million gallons per day (Mgal/d), fresh and saline), about 78 percent (275,000 Mgal/d) came from surface-water sources. (All 2010 water use information is from the report Estimated use of water in the United States in 2010.) Water from groundwater sources accounted for the remaining 22 percent. About 84 percent of all water used in 2010 was freshwater, although saline water was heavily used in the thermoelectric-power industry, and, to a lesser extent, for industrial and mining purposes.
About 75 percent of the freshwater used in the United States in 2010 came from surface-water sources. The other 25 percent came from groundwater. Surface water is an important natural resource used for many purposes, especially irrigation and public supply (supplying people with drinking water and for everyday uses).
Surface-water use, by category of use, 2010
For 2010, most of the fresh surface-water withdrawals, 50.4 percent, was used in the thermoelectric-power industry to cool electricity-generating equipment (generally a "pass-through" process). Water used in this manner is most often returned to its source. That is why the more significant use of surface water is irrigation, which used about 29 percent of all fresh surface water, but, ignoring thermoelectric-power withdrawals, irrigation accounted for about 58 percent of the Nation's surface water withdrawals. Public supply and industrial were the next largest users of surface water.
Surface-water withdrawals, by State, 2010
The map below shows surface-water withdrawals, by State, for 2010.
Trends in surface-water withdrawals
Data for freshwater withdrawals for 1980-2000 have been revised from original published values.
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