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How much water do we use?

In the map below, State size (area) is scaled proportionally to State freshwater use.

Map of US state water use Map of US state water use Water withdrawal categories Total Thermoelectric Public Supply Irrigation Industrial no data

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U.S. freshwater withdrawals, 1950-present

How and where Americans use water has changed with our population growth and many technological, environmental, and regulatory drivers.

The USGS Water Availability and Use Science Program has documented how and where we use water for the last 65 years. Above, State size (area) is scaled proportionally to total State freshwater use and freshwater use by category. National water use for each year and by category are shown as bars above the timeline. Drag the timeline to see data for available years, click on total or specific water-use categories, then mouse over the States and the bars for water use values in million gallons of water per day (Mgal/d). One million gallons of water covers a football field with about 2.8 feet of water.

Every 5 years since 1950, the USGS has compiled and estimated water-use information in cooperation with State, Federal, and local agencies to document how the Nation's water resources are used. Compilation of water-use data for 2015 is underway. This information is essential to accurately understand how future water demands will be met while maintaining adequate water quality and quantities for human and ecosystem needs. The USGS Water Availability and Use Science Program hopes to move toward even higher spatial resolution and more frequent reports in the future.

The categories used for assessing water use have varied through time, as shown here. In the figure above, data on freshwater withdrawals for thermoelectric power, public supply, irrigation, and industrial withdrawals are shown; these categories have been assessed consistently through time, with the following caveats for thermoelectric power and industrial. Prior to 1985, thermoelectric power was included as a subcategory of industrial and for 1950-55 the State data were presented as an “industrial” total, although national totals by subcategory were published. From 1985 to present, the self-supplied industrial category was further subdivided into industrial, mining, and commercial, and the values shown on this figure are the total of these categories. The figure excludes self-supplied withdrawals for domestic and livestock use, and instream use for hydroelectric power. Data at the site, county, and major watershed levels are available for some years, but not for the full period of record.

Data sources:

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., http://dx.doi.org/10.3133/cir1405.

Estimated use of water in the United States, various years: https://water.usgs.gov/watuse/50years.html