New England Water Use

Science Center Objects

Background: The U.S. Geological Survey has compiled 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, particullary during periods when there is increased competition for water (e.g. periods of drought).

Approach:

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

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

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

- The New England WSC complies and estimates water use at the county level for eight water use categories: thermoelectric, public supply, domestic, livestock, mining, industrial, irrigation, and aquaculture.

Water Issues

New England states are fortunate to have abundant freshwater resources.

Annual precipitation averages place the New England 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.

Stresses have been partially offset by declining rates of water withdrawals between 1990 and 2015.  The steepest declines occurred in the most populous states – Massachusetts and Connecticut.

New England Population, 1990-2015

A graph showing New England population trends between 1990 and 2015. (Public domain.)

New England Total Water Withdrawals, 1990-2015

A graph showing New England total water withdrawals between 1990 and 2015.  (Public domain.)

New England Population by State, 1990- 2015

A graph showing New England population trends by state between 1990 and 2015. (Public domain.)

New England Total Water Withdrawals by State, 1990-2015

A graph showing New England total water withdrawals by state between 1990 and 2015. (Public domain.)

Summary of 2015 Compilation 

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

 

New England States Water Use Websites

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

Connecticut

Maine

Massachusetts

New Hampshire

Rhode Island

Vermont

 

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 (88 percent of total) 
  • Groundwater withdrawals totaled 742 Mgal/d (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 state and percentages of total New England water withdrawals:

  • 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 percentages of total New England water withdrawals:

  • Thermoelectric Power - 4,209 Mgal/day (65.6%) 
  • Public Supply - 1,209 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 Self-Supplied Water

Eighty percent of the New England population relies on publicly supplied 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.)