New England Water Use

Science Center Objects

Background: The U.S. Geological Survey compiles the nation's water use data at the county, state, and national levels every 5 years since 1950. The most recent estimated water use compilation was completed in 2015. A summary for New England is presented on this webpage.

The Issue: Comprehensive water use data analysis is needed to quantify the stress on existing supplies, specially during the increasing competition for water (e.g. periods of drought).


- The USGS estimates are one of the few sources of information about national and regional trends in water withdrawals. 

- The New England WSC collects, reviews, and aggregates water withdrawal data from different sources (groundwater, surface water, fresh and saline) in each state as a part of the national effort.

- Our WSC collects site-specific and aggregated water use information for each county in our 6 states. 

- We estimate water use at the county level for eight water use categories: thermoelectric, public supply, domestic, livestock, mining, industrial, irrigation, and aquaculture.

Water issue

New England states have been gifted with abundant freshwater resources.

Annual precipitation averages place our states in the top half of the wettest states in the US.

However, as populations have grown (11.4 % between 1990 and 2015), freshwater resources have come under significant stress in many areas (particularly during periods of drought).

New England Population, 1990-2015

Population trends in New England between 1990 and 2015. (Public domain.)

New England Total Water Withdrawals, 1990-2015

Total water withdrawals in New England between 1990-2015.  (Public domain.)

New England Population by State, 1990- 2015

Population trends in New England by state between 1990 and 2015. (Public domain.)

New England Total Water Withdrawals by State, 1990-2015

Total water withdrawals in New England by state between 1990-2015. (Public domain.)

2015 compilation outcome 

Core numbers for New England are presented in the Results tab.


New England states Water Use websites

Since public information searches most frequently are for a state, the New England WSC has prepared a Water Use webpage for each state:




New Hampshire

Rhode Island



How much water is used in New England

The USGS 2015 Water Use compilation estimated that total water withdrawals in New England were 6,413 million gallons of water per day (Mgal/day).

  • Surface water withdrawals totaled  5,671 Mgal/d (about 88 percent of total) 
  • Groundwater withdrawals totaled 742 Mgal/d (about 12 percent of total)
  • Fresh water withdrawals were 2,375 Mgal/d (37 percent of total)
  • Saline water withdrawals were 4,038 Mgal/d (63 percent of total)

Water withdrawals by state

Estimates by states and percentage of total New England water withdrawal:

  • Connecticut - 3,128 Mgal/day (49%)
  • Massachusetts - 1,406 Mgal/day (22%)
  • New Hampshire - 935 Mgal/day (15%)
  • Maine - 509 Mgal/day (8%)
  • Rhode Island - 344 Mgal/day (5%)
  • Vermont - 91 Mgal/day (1%)

Water withdrawals by Water Use category

Estimates by category and percentage of total New England water withdrawal:

  • Thermoelectric Power - 4209 Mgal/day (65.6%) 
  • Public Supply - 1209 Mgal/day (18.9%)
  • Self-Supplied Industrial - 501 Mgal/day (7.8%)
  • Irrigation - 181 Mgal/day (2.8%)
  • Self-Supplied Domestic - 145 Mgal/day (2.3%)
  • Aquaculture - 123 Mgal/day (1.9%)
  • Mining - 34 Mgal/day (0.5%)
  • Livestock - 11 Mgal/day (0.2%)

Population on public vs own water

Eighty percent of the New England population relies on public water and 20% uses self-supplied water.

New England Population on Public and Self-Supplied Water in 2015

New England Population on Public and Self-Supplied Water in 2015. (Public domain.)