Industrial Water Use

Science Center Objects

Industrial withdrawals provide water for such purposes as fabricating, processing, washing, diluting, cooling, or transporting a product; incorporating water into a product; or for sanitation needs within the manufacturing facility. Some industries that use large amounts of water produce such commodities as food, paper, chemicals, refined petroleum, or primary metals. Water for industrial use may be delivered from a public supplier or be self supplied.


Public Supply  •  Domestic  •  Irrigation  •  Thermoelectric Power  •  Industrial  •  Mining  •  Livestock  •  Aquaculture


Cellulose plant, Brunswick, Georgia

Cellulose plant, Brunswick, Georgia (Credit: Alan Cressler, USGS)

2015 Water Use

(source: Dieter, C.A., Maupin, M.A., Caldwell, R.R., Harris, M.A., Ivahnenko, T.I., Lovelace, J.K., Barber, N.L., and Linsey, K.S., 2018, Estimated use of water in the United States in 2015: U.S. Geological Survey Circular 1441, 65 p.,

Industrial withdrawals were an estimated 14,800 Mgal/d in 2015, about 5 percent of total withdrawals for all categories of use. Surface water was the source for 82 percent of total industrial withdrawals.

Map of Industrial water use in 2015


Self-supplied industrial withdrawals, top States, 2015
[percentages calculated from unrounded values]
State Percentage of 
total withdrawals
Cumulative percentage
of total withdrawals
Indiana 15% 15%
Louisiana 14% 30%
Texas 6% 36%
Tennessee 5% 41%
Pennsylvania 4% 46%

Since 1985, self-supplied industrial withdrawals have consistently declined and are  2015 estimates are about 43 percent less than 1985. Declines in self-supplied industrial water withdrawals between 1985 and 2015 can likely be linked to a number of changes in factors in the United States economy, such as the decline in manufacturing and increases in the service sector. In addition to changes in the United States economy, declines in self-supplied industrial withdrawals reflect greater effciencies in industrial processes and an emphasis on water reuse and recycling within industrial facilities, both driven by environmental regulations and limited availability of freshwater resources in some areas.

Self-supplied industrial withdrawals 1950-2015

Data sources

Sources of data for industrial withdrawals included information obtained directly from facilities or State and Federal permit programs that require reporting of industrial withdrawals or return flows, where available. Industrial withdrawals also were estimated using industry-group employment data and per employee water-use coefficients.

Category history

  • 1950: Industrial, included thermoelectric power use
  • 1955: Industrial, included thermoelectric power use, subtotals for thermoelectric power use (fuel-electric power) and other provided by watershed but not by State
  • 1960-1980: Industrial, included thermoelectric power use, subtotals for thermoelectric power use (fuel-electric power) and "other industrial" uses
  • 1985 and later: Industrial. Separate categories for thermoelectric power, self-supplied commercial and mining split from other industrial. The term industrial water use was used 1985-1995 to describe the combined public-supply deliveries to industrial users and self-supplied industrial withdrawals.

Graphic of category changes over time