Science Center Objects

The Issue: Comprehensive water-use data and analysis of water-use information are needed to quantify the stress on existing supplies and to better model and evaluate possible water-supply management options to supplement traditional water-supply approaches. Advances have been made in the ability to control, divert, and develop water, but little attention has been paid to keeping accurate accounts of the actual amounts of water being used. With the ever-increasing competition for water (especially during periods of drought), accurate water-use information could be of considerable value in determining future water availability and making sound resource management decisions.

How USGS will help:Every five years since 1950, the USGS has reported the estimated use of water for all counties in the United States. These data enable determining trends in water use for the Nation among different geographic areas, categories of use, and sources over time. The USGS Washington Water Science Center collects and compiles water use data for all of Washington State every five years as well as more refined data for selected areas to support investigations of groundwater and surface water availability.

Problem: Water use in Washington has evolved in the past century from meager domestic and stockwater needs to the present complex requirements of large irrigation projects, municipalities, industrial plants, and power generation facilities. Advances have been made in the ability to control, divert, and develop water, but little attention has been paid to keeping accurate accounts of the actual amounts of water being used. With the ever-increasing competition for water (especially during periods of drought), accurate water-use information could be of considerable value in determining future water availability and making sound resource management decisions.

Objectives: Through the National Water Census, USGS will provide comprehensive reporting of national information on withdrawal, conveyance, consumptive use, and return flow by category of use. Water-use data enables water managers to plan more strategically and enables the analysis of trends of over time. It is also vital to water-availability studies such as watershed and groundwater models.

Relevance and Benefits: An important part of the USGS mission is to provide scientific information to manage the water resources of the Nation, and to enhance and protect our quality of life. The future health and welfare of the Nation's population is dependent upon a continuing supply of uncontaminated fresh water. Increasing withdrawals and increasing demands for instream flows are limiting the water available for future use. More comprehensive water-use data and analysis of water-use information are needed to quantify the stress on existing supplies and to better model and evaluate possible water-supply management options to supplement traditional water-supply approaches. By compiling water-use data from numerous sources and reporting it in a common format for all parts of the country, the USGS provides resource managers at all levels of government with vital information needed to make informed decisions about managing their water resources. The results of such efforts provide benefits to our Nation's sustainable health, welfare, and prosperity. The water-use data collected and compiled in this State are an integral part of the nationwide assessment of water supply and demand.

Approach: The U.S. Geological Survey's National Water-Use Science Project, a part of the National Water Census, is responsible for compiling and disseminating the nation's water-use data. The USGS works in cooperation with local, State, and Federal environmental agencies to collect water-use information. USGS compiles these data to produce water-use information aggregated at the county, state, and national levels. Every five years, data at the county level are compiled into a national water-use data system and state-level data are published in a national circular.