The U.S. Geological Survey has compiled estimates of water use every five years since 1950. These estimates have been derived from many sources, and have a wide range of accuracy. Therefore, they fall short of providing a national data base that is both current and reliable. In 1977, the Congress of the United States recognized the need for uniform information on water use and directed the U.S. Geological Survey to establish a National Water-Use Information Program to complement the Survey's data on the availability and quality of the Nation's water resources.
The National Water-Use Information Program was designed as a cooperative program between the States and the Federal Government. The goals of the program are: to collect and compile water-use data; to develop and refine computerized water-use data systems at both the State and national levels; to devise new methods and techniques to improve the collection and analysis of water-use information; and to disseminate this information to those involved in establishing water-resources policy and to those managing the resources.
The program that started in 1978 in 20 States now includes participation by 47 States. Water-Use information is being compiled for 12 categories of use. Each State will have a automated data system that contains site-specific information about the water use in each category. The National Water-Use Data System will contain information for the 12 categories of use summarized by counties and river basins within each State.
The national system will aid in defining how much fresh and saline surface water and ground water is withdrawn and for what purpose, how much water is consumed during use, and how much water is returned to a water body (stream, lake, or aquifer) after use.