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National Water Census

Dept. of Interior WaterSMART activities

Dept. of Interior WaterSMART activities

The National Water Census is a USGS research program on national water availability and use that develops new water accounting tools and assesses water availability at the regional and national scales. Through the Water Census, USGS is integrating diverse research on water availability and use and enhancing the understanding of connection between water quality and water availability. Research is designed to build decision support capacity for water management agencies and other natural resource managers. It is one of six major science directions identified by the USGS in its 2007 Science Plan and is called for in the SECURE Water Act and implemented through the Department of the Interior WaterSMART initiative.

wave graphic  For more scientific background on the Water Census, visit the Water Budgets page.

Featured Products

Regional scale estimates of baseflow and factors influencing baseflow in the Upper Colorado River Basin Regional scale estimates of baseflow and factors influencing baseflow in the Upper Colorado River Basin
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USGS Fact Sheet: Progress toward a National Water Census cover image USGS Fact Sheet: Progress toward a National Water Census
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CDI poster The National Water Census Data Portal provides integration and delivery of water budget information alongside other data, such as water-use data and ecological assessment criteria, and integrates with NWC data-management activities.
View the poster>>> (5 Mb PDF file)

Estimated Use of Water in the United States in 2010 cover image The U.S. Geological Survey's National Water-Use Information Program is responsible for compiling and disseminating the nation's water-use data. Estimated Use of Water in the United States in 2010 is now available.
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Natural Flow Regimes cover image Estimates of water use at thermoelectric plants were developed by the U.S. Geological Survey based on linked heat and water budgets, and complement reported thermoelectric water withdrawals and consumption. Differences among withdrawal and consumption coefficients based on EIA-reported water use for 2005 and 2010 and heat-budget model results for 2010 reveal opportunities for improving consistency and accuracy of reporting of water-use information at the plant scale.Read the USGS Scientific Investigations Report >>>

Natural Flow Regimes cover image Grouping streams by similar hydrologic responses and, by extension, similar aquatic habitat is widely accepted and considered by some to be one of the first steps towards developing ecological flow targets. This publication presents a new classification of 1543 streamgages in the contiguous USA to understand similarity in ecological streamflow response using seven fundamental daily streamflow statistics. This approach overcomes some of the subjectivity associated with selecting classification variables and provides a set of robust continental-scale classes of US streamgages. Read the Journal Article >>>

USGS Scientific Investigations Report 2013-5188 Water consumption at thermoelectric power plants represents a small but substantial share of total water consumption in the U.S. However, currently available thermoelectric water consumption data are inconsistent and incomplete, and coefficients used to estimate consumption are contradictory. The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) has resumed the estimation of thermoelectric water consumption, last done in 1995, based on the use of linked heat and water budgets to complement reported water consumption. This report presents the methods used to estimate freshwater consumption at a study set of 1,284 power plants based on 2010 plant characteristics and operations data. Read the USGS Scientific Investigations Report >>>

JAWRA Technical Report Cover A new WaterSMART study provides a simplified parameterization to estimate actual evapotranspiration (ET) using predefined boundary conditions for the hot and cold reference pixels, so that ET can be estimated operationally as a function of the land surface temperature obtained from remotely sensed data and reference ET from global weather datasets. This builds on the strengths of the pre-existing "SSEB" approach to modeling ET but reduces likelihood of model operator errors. This is particularly important for estimating year-to-year variability in consumptive use in irrigation basins in a timely manner, such as when a given year's consumptive use estimates are needed before the next irrigation season starts. Read the Technical Paper >>>

Scientific Investigations Report 2013-5066 Irrigation water use in the humid eastern United States is difficult to characterize because of inadequate reporting and wide variability associated with climate, soils, crops, and farming practices. This report describes two predictive models developed and tested by the USGS and explains their potential to provide estimates of irrigation water use in the eastern U.S. Read the Scientific Investigations Report >>>

Early National Water Resources Reports Two national efforts which laid the groundwork for the USGS National Water Census are presented here for historical reference. The first was a systematic, if rudimentary, national effort titled "The Nation's Water Resources" released in 1968 by the U.S. Water Resources Council. A decade later the Council released a more comprehensive report titled "The Nation's Water Resources 1975-2000".

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