8 Water Use Numbers You Should Know

In the United States, we use 355 billion gallons of water every day. What other interesting tidbits does a USGS survey reveal? Take a look.
8 Water Use Numbers You Should Know

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Every five years, the U.S. Geological Survey summarizes national water use. If you love statistics, here are a few numbers to consider. And if you really love statistics, you can read the full report at www.usgs.gov.

  1. 355 billion gallons per day - First of all, congratulations are in order to the United States: According to a new USGS report, water use in this county is at its lowest recorded level in nearly 45 years. In 2010, we used just 355 billion gallons of water per day. As immense as that number sounds, it represents a 13 percent reduction from 2005. It’s also the lowest number since before 1970.
  2. 45 percent - The largest use of water in the United States? Thermoelectric power, which is the process of generating electricity using steam-driven generators. The process used roughly 161,000 mgd in 2010, or 45 percent of total water use. Of that amount, most of it can be attributed to the East Coast, where 86 percent of thermoelectric-power water withdrawals originate.
  3. 5 percent - Although populations serviced by public water supplies have continued to grow, public water use decreased by 5 percent between 2005 and 2010. That number represents the first decline in public-use water since the USGS began reporting in 1950.
  4. One quarter - Four states — California, Texas, Idaho and Florida — accounted for one quarter of all fresh and saline water withdrawals in 2010. In California, which wins the Top Water User Award, the lion’s share of water goes toward irrigation. Florida takes the prize for saline-water withdrawals.
  5. 268 million - An estimated 268 million people relied on public-supply water for household use in 2010, which represents 86 percent of the U.S. population. The top four states for public water supply use were: California, Texas, New York and Florida.
  6. 42 percent - Maine holds the honor of “largest self-supplied population,” with 42 percent of the state’s residents relying on groundwater wells or other self-sufficient options. Other top states were Alaska and the Virgin Islands, with 37 percent and 35 percent reporting self-supplied water sources, respectively.
  7. 62.4 million acres - Irrigation withdrawals accounted for the second largest portion of overall use. In 2010, 62.4 million acres were irrigated, which was an increase of 1.5 percent from 2005. But the good news is that although total acreage increased slightly, irrigation use decreased by 9 percent.
  8. 1980 - Since 1950, when the USGS began keeping water use records, the greatest water-use year occurred in 1980, when the nation used 430 billion gallons per day. At that point, thermoelectric power accounted for 210,000 mgd compared to 161,000 in 2010.


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