Rhode Island Water Use

Science Center Objects

Background: The U.S. Geological Survey compiles estimates of water use in Rhode Island and the rest of the United States 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 Rhode Island 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 Rhode Island as a part of the national effort.

- Our WSC collects site-specific and aggregated water use information for each county in Rhode Island. 

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

Water issue

Rhode Island have been gifted with abundant freshwater resources.

Annual precipitation averages in Rhode Island place the state in the top half of the wettest states in the US.

However, as populations have grown (5.1 % between 1990 and 2015), freshwater resources have come under significant stress in many areas (particularly during periods of drought).

Rhode Island population trends, 1990-2015

A chart showing Rhode Island population trends between 1985 and 2015. (Public domain)

Rhode Island water withdrawal trends, 1990 - 2015

A graph showing Rhode Island water withdrawal trends between 1990 and 2015. (Public domain)

2015 compilation outcome 

Core numbers for Rhode Island are presented in the Results tab.


How much water is used in Rhode Island?

In 2015, approximately 344 million gallons per day (Mgal/d) of water was withdrawn from groundwater and surface-water sources in Rhode Island. Total water withdrawals declined steadily between 1990 and 2015 (-35%).

  • Surface water withdrawals totaled  311 Mgal/d (about 90 percent of total) 
  • Groundwater withdrawals totaled 33 Mgal/d (about 10 percent of total)
  • Fresh water withdrawals were 122 Mgal/d (about 35 percent of total)
  • Saline water withdrawals were 222 Mgal/d (about 65 percent of total)

Rhode Island Total Water Withdrawals in 2015 by category (values in Mgal/day)

  • Thermoelectric—224
  • Public Supply—97
  • Domestic—7
  • Aquaculture—7
  • Irrigation—4
  • Mining—3
  • Industrial—2
  • Livestock—0
Rhode Island Total Water Use by category in 2015

Rhode Island Total Water Use by category in 2015. (Public domain)

Animation of 2015 Rhode Island water use by category

Animation of 2015 Rhode Island water use by category, captured from the visualization of 2015 United States water use by category, by the USGS Vizlab. (Public domain)

Rhode Island Public Water Supply Withdrawals in 2015 by county 

RI CountyGroundwater (Mgal/d)Surface Water (Mgal/d)Total (Mgal/d)