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The future health and economic welfare of Montana's population is dependent on a continuing supply of fresh water. Montana's finite water resources are being stressed by increasing water withdrawals and instream-flow requirements. Various water managers in Montana need comprehensive, current, and detailed water-use data to quantify current stresses and estimate and plan for future water needs. This report summarizes selected water-use data for all of Montana's counties and stream basins to help meet those needs.
In 2000, the citizens of Montana withdrew and used about 10,749 million gallons per day (Mgal/d) of water from Montana's streams and aquifers. Withdrawals from surface water were about 10,477 Mgal/d and withdrawals from ground water were about 272 Mgal/d. Agricultural irrigation accounted for about 10,378 Mgal/d or about 96.5 percent of total withdrawals for all uses. Withdrawals for public supply were about 136 Mgal/d, self-supplied domestic withdrawals were about 23 Mgal/d, self-supplied industrial withdrawals were about 61 Mgal/d, withdrawals for thermoelectric power generation were about 110 Mgal/d, and withdrawals for livestock were about 41 Mgal/d. Total consumptive use of water in 2000 was about 2,370 Mgal/d, of which about 2,220 Mgal/d (93.6 percent) was for agricultural irrigation.
Instream uses of water included hydroelectric power generation and maintenance of instream flows for conservation of wildlife and aquatic life, and for public recreational purposes. In 2000, about 74,486 Mgal/d was used at hydroelectric plants for generation of about 11,591 gigawatt-hours of electricity. Evaporation from large water bodies, although not a classified water use, accounts for a large loss of water in some parts of the State. Net evaporation from Montana's 60 largest reservoirs and regulated lakes averaged about 891 Mgal/d.