Mining Water Use

Science Center Objects

Mining water use is water used for the extraction of minerals that may be in the form of solids, such as coal, iron, sand, and gravel; liquids, such as crude petroleum; and gases, such as natural gas. The category includes quarrying, milling of mined materials, injection of water for secondary oil recovery or for unconventional oil and gas recovery (such as hydraulic fracturing), and other operations associated with mining activities. Dewatering is not reported as a mining withdrawal unless the water was used beneficially, such as dampening roads for dust control.

•••  WATER USE HOME  •  TOTAL WATER USE  •  SURFACE WATER USE  •  GROUNDWATER USE  •  TRENDS  •••

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

 

 

Dragline bucket in kaolin mine

Dragline bucket in kaolin mine

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., https://doi.org/10.3133/cir1441.)

During 2015, an estimated 4,000 Mgal/d were withdrawn for mining, about 1 percent of total withdrawals. Groundwater was the source for 72 percent of total withdrawals for mining, and 65 percent of the groundwater withdrawn was saline. Of the surface-water withdrawn, 77 percent was freshwater.

Mining water withdrawals in 2015

Mining withdrawals, top States, 2015
[percentages calculated from unrounded values]
State Percentage of 
total withdrawals
Cumulative percentage 
of total withdrawals
Texas 28% 28%
California 8% 36%
Utah 7% 43%
Nevada 5% 48%
Oklahoma 5% 53%

Total mining withdrawals in 2015 were 1 percent more than in 2010. Groundwater withdrawals were 1 percent more, and surface-water withdrawals were about the same. Freshwater withdrawals in 2015 were 4 percent less than in 2010, and saline-water withdrawals were 5 percent more than in 2010.

Data sources

Sources of data used to estimate water use for mining included surveys of mining operations and State and Federal agencies that collect water withdrawal, discharge, or mineral production data for mining operations. Many of the 2015 withdrawals for mining were estimated according to methods described by Lovelace (2009), using mineral production data and water-use coefficients, in gallons per weight or volume of minerals produced. Production data for nonfuel minerals, including metals and nonmetallic minerals, were provided by the USGS Minerals Information Team for 2015. Production or water-injection data for fuel minerals, including coal, petroleum, and natural gas, were obtained from the US DoE Energy Information Administration and various State agencies.

Category history

  • 1950-1980: included in Industrial
  • 1985 and later: Mining

Graphic of category changes over time