Livestock Water Use

Science Center Objects

Livestock water use is water associated with livestock watering, feedlots, dairy operations, and other on-farm needs. Livestock includes dairy cows and heifers, beef cattle and calves, sheep and lambs, goats, hogs and pigs, horses, and poultry. Other livestock water uses include cooling of facilities for the animals and products, dairy sanitation and wash down of facilities, animal waste-disposal systems, and incidental water losses. The livestock category excludes on-farm domestic use, lawn and garden watering, and irrigation water use.


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




Cow at water tank, Lamar County, Georgia.

Cow at water tank, Lamar County, Georgia. (Credit: Jeff Vanuga, USDA NRCS)

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.,

Withdrawals for livestock use were an estimated 2,000 Mgal/d for 2015, less than 1 percent of total freshwater withdrawals. Groundwater was the source for 62 percent of total livestock withdrawals.



Livestock water withdrawals in 2015

Livestock withdrawals, top States, 2015
[percentages calculated from unrounded values]
State Percentage of 
total withdrawals
Cumulative percentage
of total withdrawals
Texas 14% 14%
California 9% 23%
Iowa 8% 31%
Nebraska 6% 37%
Kansas 5% 42%


Withdrawals for livestock were about the same in 2015 as in 2010.


Livestock water withdrawals, 1950-2015


Data sources

Few State agencies require livestock operations to report water withdrawals; therefore, most estimates of livestock withdrawals are derived using animal population data and water-use coefficients, in gallons per head per day for each animal type. Animal population data generally are available from State agricultural agencies and the USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service. Coefficients vary by State and, for many States, are provided by agricultural extension agents or water-permitting agencies. Coefficients may reflect facility maintenance needs and effects of climate on animal watering. Many of the 2015 withdrawals for livestock were estimated according to methods described by Lovelace (2009).

Category history

  • 1950: Rural (included self-supplied domestic: estimates were allocated to Rural Domestic and Livestock in later reports)
  • 1960-1980: Livestock subcategory under Rural
  • 1985: Livestock, including water use for fish farming
  • 1990-1995: Livestock. Subcategory of Animal Specialties included horses and fish farming
  • 2000 and later: Livestock. Separate category of Aquaculture includes fish farming and fish hatcheries

Graphic of category changes over time