Water Use in the United States
Mining Water Use
Dragline bucket in kaolin mine
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 of mined materials, injection of water for secondary oil recovery or for unconventional oil and gas recovery (such as hydraulic fracturing), and other operations associated with mining activities. Dewatering is not reported as a mining withdrawal unless the water was used beneficially, such as dampening roads for dust control.
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/.)
During 2010, an estimated 5,320 Mgal/d were withdrawn for mining, about 1 percent of total withdrawals. Groundwater was the source for 73 percent of total withdrawals for mining, and71 percent of the groundwater withdrawn was saline. Eighty percent of the surface-water withdrawn was freshwater.
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.
Sources of data used to estimate water use for mining included surveys of mining operations and State and Federal agencies that collect water withdrawal, discharge, or mineral production data for mining operations. Many of the 2010 withdrawals for mining were estimated according to methods described by Lovelace (2009), using mineral production data and water-use coefficients, in gallons per weight or volume of minerals produced. Production data for nonfuel minerals, including metals and nonmetallic minerals, were provided by the USGS Minerals Information Team for 2010. Production or water-injection data for fuel minerals, including coal, petroleum, and natural gas, were obtained from the Energy Information Administration and various State agencies.