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Estimated use of water in the United States in 2015

Circular 1441

Water Availability and Use Science Program
By:
ORCID iD , ORCID iD , ORCID iD , ORCID iD , ORCID iD , ORCID iD , ORCID iD , and ORCID iD
https://doi.org/10.3133/cir1441

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Abstract

Water use in the United States in 2015 was estimated to be about 322 billion gallons per day (Bgal/d), which was 9 percent less than in 2010. The 2015 estimates put total withdrawals at the lowest level since before 1970, following the same overall trend of decreasing total withdrawals observed from 2005 to 2010. Freshwater withdrawals were 281 Bgal/d, or 87 percent of total withdrawals, and saline-water withdrawals were 41.0 Bgal/d, or 13 percent of total withdrawals. Fresh surface-water withdrawals (198 Bgal/d) were 14 percent less than in 2010, and fresh groundwater withdrawals (82.3 Bgal/day) were about 8 percent greater than in 2010. Saline surface-water withdrawals were 38.6 Bgal/d, or 14 percent less than in 2010. Total saline groundwater withdrawals in 2015 were 2.34 Bgal/d, mostly for mining use.

Thermoelectric power and irrigation remained the two largest uses of water in 2015, and total withdrawals decreased for thermoelectric power but increased for irrigation. With­drawals in 2015 for thermoelectric power were 18 percent less and withdrawals for irrigation were 2 percent greater than in 2010. Similarly, other uses showed reductions compared to 2010, specifically public supply (–7 percent), self-supplied domestic (–8 percent), self-supplied industrial (–9 percent), and aquaculture (–16 percent). In addition to irrigation (2 percent), mining (1 percent) reported larger withdrawals in 2015 than in 2010. Livestock withdrawals remained essentially the same in 2015 compared to 2010 (0 percent change). Thermoelectric power, irrigation, and public-supply withdrawals accounted for 90 percent of total withdrawals in 2015.

Withdrawals for thermoelectric power were 133 Bgal/d in 2015 and represented the lowest levels since before 1970. Surface-water withdrawals accounted for more than 99 percent of total thermoelectric-power withdrawals, and 72 percent of those surface-water withdrawals were from freshwater sources. Saline surface-water withdrawals for thermoelectric power accounted for 97 percent of total saline surface-water withdrawals for all uses. Thermoelectric-power withdrawals accounted for 41 percent of total withdrawals for all uses, and freshwater withdrawals for thermoelectric power accounted for 34 percent of the total freshwater withdrawals for all uses. Total consumptive use for thermoelectric power was 4.31 Bgal/d in 2015 or 3 percent of the total thermoelectric-power withdrawals.

Irrigation withdrawals were 118 Bgal/d in 2015, an increase of 2 percent from 2010 (116 Bgal/d), but were approximately equal to withdrawals estimated in the 1960s. Irrigation withdrawals, all freshwater, accounted for 42 percent of total freshwater withdrawals for all uses and 64 percent of total freshwater withdrawals for all uses excluding thermoelectric power. Surface-water withdrawals (60.9 Bgal/d) accounted for 52 percent of the total irrigation withdrawals, or about 8 percent less than in 2010. Ground­water withdrawals for irrigation were 57.2 Bgal/d in 2015, about 16 percent more than in 2010. About 63,500 thousand acres (or 63.5 million acres) were irrigated in 2015, an increase from 2010 of about 1,130 thousand acres (2 percent). The number of acres irrigated using sprinkler and microirrigation systems accounted for 63 percent of the total irrigated lands in 2015. Total consumptive use for irrigation was 73.2 Bgal/d in 2015 or 62 percent of the total use (withdrawals and reclaimed wastewater).

Public-supply withdrawals in 2015 were 39.0 Bgal/d, or 7 percent less than in 2010, continuing the declines observed from 2005 to 2010. Total population in the United States increased from 312.6 million people in 2010 to 325.0 million people in 2015, an increase of 4 percent. Public-supply withdrawals accounted for 14 percent of the total freshwater withdrawals for all uses and 21 percent of freshwater with­drawals for all uses, excluding thermoelectric power. The number of people that received potable water from public-supply facilities in 2015 was 283 million, or about 87 percent of the total United States population. This percentage is 1 percent greater than in 2010. Self-supplied domestic withdrawals were 3.26 Bgal/d, or 8 percent less than in 2010. More than 98 percent of the self-supplied domestic withdrawals were from groundwater sources.

Self-supplied industrial withdrawals were 14.8 Bgal/d in 2015, a 9 percent decline from 2010, continuing the downward trend since the peak of 47 Bgal/d in 1970. Total self-supplied industrial withdrawals were 5 percent of total withdrawals for all uses and 8 percent of total withdrawals for all uses, excluding thermoelectric power. Most of the total self-supplied industrial withdrawals were from surface-water sources (82 percent), and nearly all (94 percent) of those surface-water withdrawals were from freshwater sources. Nearly all of the groundwater withdrawals for self-supplied industrial use (98 percent) were from freshwater sources.

Total aquaculture withdrawals were 7.55 Bgal/d in 2015, or 16 percent less than in 2010, and surface water was the primary source (79 percent). Most of the surface-water withdrawals occurred at facilities that operated flow-through raceways, which returned the water to the source directly after use. Aquaculture withdrawals accounted for 2 percent of the total withdrawals for all uses and 4 percent of the total withdrawals for all uses, excluding thermoelectric.

Total mining withdrawals in 2015 were 4.00 Bgal/d, or about 1 percent of total withdrawals from all uses and 2 percent of total withdrawals from all uses, excluding thermoelectric. Mining withdrawals increased 1 percent from 2010 to 2015. Groundwater withdrawals accounted for 72 percent of the total mining withdrawals, and most of the groundwater was saline (65 percent). Most (77 percent) of the surface-water withdrawals for mining was freshwater.

Livestock withdrawals in 2015 were 2.00 Bgal/d, the same as in 2010. All livestock withdrawals were from freshwater sources, mostly from groundwater (62 percent). Livestock withdrawals accounted for about 1 percent of total freshwater withdrawals for all uses, excluding thermoelectric power.

In 2015, more than 50 percent of the total withdrawals in the United States were accounted for by 12 States (California, Texas, Idaho, Florida, Arkansas, New York, Illinois, Colorado, North Carolina, Michigan, Montana, and Nebraska). California accounted for almost 9 percent of the total withdrawals and 9 percent of freshwater withdrawals in the United States, predominantly for irrigation. Texas accounted for almost 7 percent of total withdrawals, predominantly for thermoelectric power, irrigation, and public supply. Florida accounted for 23 percent of the total saline-water withdrawals in the United States, mostly from surface-water sources for thermoelectric power. Texas and California accounted for 59 percent of the total saline groundwater withdrawals in the United States, mostly for mining.

Suggested Citation

Dieter, C.A., Maupin, M.A., Caldwell, R.R., Harris, M.A., Ivahnenko, T.I., Lovelace, J.K., Barber, N.L., and Linsey, K.S., 2018, Estimated use of water in the United States in 2015: U.S. Geological Survey Circular 1441, 65 p., https://doi.org/10.3133/cir1441. [Supersedes USGS Open-File Report 2017–1131.]

ISSN: 2330-5703 (online)

ISSN: 1067-084X (print)

Table of Contents

  • Abstract
  • Introduction
  • Total Water Use
  • Public Supply
  • Domestic
  • Irrigation
  • Livestock
  • Aquaculture
  • Industrial
  • Mining
  • Thermoelectric Power
  • Trends in Water Use, 1950–2015
  • References Cited
  • Glossary
  • Contributing Agencies and Organizations

Additional publication details

Publication type:
Report
Publication Subtype:
USGS Numbered Series
Title:
Estimated use of water in the United States in 2015
Series title:
Circular
Series number:
1441
ISBN:
978-1-4113-4233-0
DOI:
10.3133/cir1441
Year Published:
2018
Language:
English
Publisher:
U.S. Geological Survey
Publisher location:
Reston, VA
Contributing office(s):
Maryland Water Science Center
Description:
v, 65 p.
Online Only (Y/N):
N
Additional Online Files (Y/N):
N