Water Use in the United States
Aquaculture Water Use
Paul Wilson guides a basket containing 2,000 pounds of catfish into a transport truck. Photo by Stephen Ausmus. Photo from ARS-USDA Image Gallery
Aquaculture water use is water associated with raising organisms that live in water—such as finfish and shellfish— for food, restoration, conservation, or sport. Aquaculture production occurs under controlled feeding, sanitation, and harvesting procedures primarily in ponds, flowthrough raceways, and, to a lesser extent, cages, net pens, and closed-recirculation tanks.
2010 Water Use
(source: Maupin, M.A., Kenny, J.F., Hutson, S.S., Lovelace, J.K., Barber, N.L., and Linsey, K.S., 2014, Estimated use of water in the United States in 2010: U.S. Geological Survey Circular 1405, 56 p., https://pubs.usgs.gov/circ/1405/.)
Total withdrawals for aquaculture during 2010 were 9,420 Mgal/d, about 81 percent from surface water. Much of the surface water was used for flowthrough raceways and was returned to the source after use. Aquaculture withdrawals were 3 percent of total withdrawals for 2010.
Idaho, North Carolina, California, and Oregon used the most water for aquaculture, about 63 percent of the total and about 74 percent of the surface-water withdrawals for aquaculture. Alaska, Louisiana, Arkansas, California, and Mississippi combined accounted for 60 percent of the total groundwater withdrawals for aquaculture.
Aquaculture withdrawals increased 7 percent between 2005 and 2010. Since 1985, aquaculture has grown from 1 percent of total withdrawals excluding thermoelectric to almost 5 percent in 2010 with the largest increase between 1995 and 2000 when the total withdrawals increased nearly 80 percent.
Some estimates of aquaculture withdrawals are derived from State permits that report water withdrawals or return flows for aquaculture facilities. The USEPA Permit Compliance System database also is a source of return-flow data that are used to estimate water withdrawals. State regulatory agencies, State offices of the National Agricultural Statistics Service, and Cooperative Extension Service offices also provide information used to estimate aquaculture withdrawals in some States. Many of the 2005 withdrawals for aquaculture were estimated according to methods described by Lovelace (2009), using aquaculture data compiled for the NASS Census of Aquaculture with standardized water-use coefficients and water-replacement rates. The data included statistics for various aquacultured species and aquaculture ponds, raceways, tanks, egg incubators, pens, and cages at commercial and non-commercial aquaculture operations.