Good News! Water Use in the U.S. Less in 2005 Than 1975

water withdrawal trends chart image
Despite 30% Population Growth
We always hear about how we're using more of this and more of that, so it is welcome new to learn that apparently the people of the U.S. were using less water in 2005 than in 1975 despite a significant increase in population. Daily water consumption in the U.S. is 410 BILLION gallons of water, and 49% of those are being used for for producing electricity at thermoelectric power plants. Irrigation is 31%, and public use is 11%. "The remaining 9 percent of the water was for self-supplied industrial, livestock, aquaculture, mining and rural domestic uses."water withdrawal map usa image

Since irrigation for agriculture and water used by power plants account for such a big chunk of the total, it is mostly improvements in efficiency and refinements in those sectors that are helping drive down the demand. This doesn't mean that water won't be scarce in some areas, especially if supply goes down faster than demand. But it is certainly much better than the alternative, which would be a growth in water demand that mirrors population growth.

We can still do much better (drip irrigation, smart water technologies, etc), but it's good to know we're making progress.

USGS writes:

Estimates of water use in the United States indicate that about 410 billion gallons per day (Bgal/d) were withdrawn in 2005 for all categories summarized in this report. This total is slightly less than the estimate for 2000, and about 5 percent less than total withdrawals in the peak year of 1980. Freshwater withdrawals in 2005 were 349 Bgal/d, or 85 percent of the total freshwater and saline-water withdrawals. Fresh groundwater withdrawals of 79.6 Bgal/day in 2005 were about 5 percent less than in 2000, and fresh surface-water withdrawals of 270 Bgal/day were about the same as in 2000. Withdrawals for thermoelectric-power generation and irrigation, the two largest uses of water, have stabilized or decreased since 1980. Withdrawals for public-supply and domestic uses have increased steadily since estimates began.

water withdrawal trends chart image

About public withdrawals:

Water withdrawals for public supply were 44.2 Bgal/d in 2005, which is 2 percent more than in 2000, although the population increased by more than 5 percent during that time. Public supply accounted for 13 percent of all freshwater withdrawals in 2005 and 21 percent of all freshwater withdrawals excluding thermoelectric withdrawals. The percentage of the U.S. population obtaining drinking water from public suppliers has increased steadily from 62 percent in 1950 to 86 percent in 2005.

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