Estimated use of water in the United States in 1970

Circular 676




Estimates of water use in the United States in 1970 indicate that an average of about 370 bgd (billion gallons per day)about 1,800 gallons per capita per day--was withdrawn for the four principal off-channel uses which are (1) public-supply (for domestic, commercial, and industrial uses), (2) rural (domestic and livestock), (3) irrigation, and (4) self-supplied industrial (including thermoelectric power). In 1970, withdrawals for these uses exceeded by 19 percent the 310 bgd estimated for 1965. Increases in the various categories of off-channel water use since 1965 were: approximately 25 percent for self-supplied industry (mainly in electric-utility thermoelectric plants), 13 percent for public supplies, 13 percent for rural supplies, and 8 percent for irrigation. Industrial water withdrawals included 54 bgd of saline water, a 20 percent increase in 5 years. The fifth principal withdrawal use, hydroelectric power (an in-channel use), amounted to 2,800 bgd, a 5-year increase of 22 percent. In computing total withdrawals, recycling within a plant (reuse) is not counted, but withdrawal of the same water by a downstream user (cumulative withdrawals) is counted. The quantity of fresh water consumed--that is, water made unavailable for further possible withdrawal because of evaporation, incorporation in crops and manufactured products, and other causes--was estimated to average 87 bgd for 1970, an increase of about 12 percent since 1965.

Estimates of water withdrawn from the principal sources indicated that 68 bgd came from fresh ground water, l bgd came from saline ground water, 250 bgd came from fresh surface water, 53 bgd came from saline surface water, and 0.5 bgd was reclaimed sewage.

The average annual streamflow--simplified measure of the total available water supply--is approximately 1,200 bgd in the conterminous United States. Total water withdrawn in 1970 for off-channel uses (withdrawals other than for hydroelectric power) amounted to about 30 percent of the average annual streamflow: 7 percent of the 1,200 bgd basic supply was consumed. However, comparisons of Water Resources Council regions indicate that the rate of withdrawal was higher than the locally dependable supply in the Middle Atlantic, Texas-Gulf, Rio Grande, Lower Colorado, and California-South Pacific regions. Consumption amounted to nearly 25 percent of withdrawals in the conterminous United States; however, fresh-water consumption amounted to only 14 percent of off-channel withdrawals in the 31 Eastern States and ranged from 30 percent to nearly 70 percent of off-channel withdrawals in the Water Resources Council regions in the West. In the Rio Grande and Lower Colorado regions, fresh-water consumption in 1970 exceeded the estimated dependable supply of fresh water.

Additional publication details

Publication type:
Publication Subtype:
USGS Numbered Series
Estimated use of water in the United States in 1970
Series title:
Series number:
Year Published:
U.S. Geological Survey
Publisher location:
Reston, VA
Contributing office(s):
Dakota Water Science Center, Utah Water Science Center, North Dakota Water Science Center
vi, 37 p.
United States
Online Only (Y/N):
Additional Online Files (Y/N):