Estimated use of water in the United States increased from 180 bgd (billion gallons per day) in 1950 to 450 bgd in 1980. During this same time population increased from about 150 million to about 230 million. Data on consumptive use are not available for the first decade of the period; however, from 1960 to 1980, consumptive use increased from 61 bgd to 100 bgd.
From 1950 to 1980, fresh surface-water withdrawals increased from 140 bgd to 290 bgd and fresh ground-water withdrawals increased from 34 bgd to 88 bgd. Withdrawals of saline surface water increased from 10 bgd in 1950 to 71 bgd in 1980. In 1980, 91 percent of the saline surface water withdrawn was used in thermoelectric power plants.
Withdrawals of water for domestic purposes nationwide increased from 16 bgd in 1960 to 25 bgd in 1980. The Northeastern States still are the largest users of water for domestic purposes; however, domestic withdrawals in that region declined from 9.6 bgd in 1975 to 8.8 bgd in 1980. Population in that region also showed a slight decline from 1970 to 1980.
Irrigation withdrawals nationwide increased from 89 bgd in 1950 to 150 bgd in 1980. The Western States continue to be the largest user of irrigation water, 136 bgd in 1980. Irrigation accounted for 81 percent of the total consumptive use for the Nation in 1980.
Industrial withdrawals (exclusive of thermoelectric power generation) increased from 44 bgd in 1960 to about 56 bgd in 1980. The Northeast Region continues to withdraw the largest amount of water for industrial purposes, although withdrawals declined steadily from 33 bgd in 1965 to 27 bgd in 1980.
Total withdrawals for thermoelectric power generation increased from about 99 bgd in 1960 to about 210 bgd in 1980. During that period, saline surface water withdrawals increased from 26 bgd to 71 bgd. Thermoelectric plants accounted for 84 percent of saline surface water withdrawals in 1960 compared to 91 percent in 1980. Withdrawals for thermoelectric power generation continue to be the largest in the Northeast, ll3 bgd in 1980, where many of the major industrial and population centers are located.
Agriculture (nonirrigation) water withdrawals nationwide increased from 1.6 bgd in 1960 to about 2.2 bgd in 1980. Withdrawals for this purpose in 1980 were about evenly divided between the West and East.
Additional publication details
USGS Numbered Series
Summary of water withdrawals in the United States, 1950-80