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Methods for Estimating Water Withdrawals for Mining in the United States, 2005

May 20, 2009

The mining water-use category includes groundwater and surface water that is withdrawn and used for nonfuels and fuels mining. Nonfuels mining includes the extraction of ores, stone, sand, and gravel. Fuels mining includes the extraction of coal, petroleum, and natural gas. Water is used for mineral extraction, quarrying, milling, and other operations directly associated with mining activities. For petroleum and natural gas extraction, water often is injected for secondary oil or gas recovery. Estimates of water withdrawals for mining are needed for water planning and management.

This report documents methods used to estimate withdrawals of fresh and saline groundwater and surface water for mining during 2005 for each county and county equivalent in the United States, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Fresh and saline groundwater and surface-water withdrawals during 2005 for nonfuels- and coal-mining operations in each county or county equivalent in the United States, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands were estimated. Fresh and saline groundwater withdrawals for oil and gas operations in counties of six states also were estimated. Water withdrawals for nonfuels and coal mining were estimated by using mine-production data and water-use coefficients. Production data for nonfuels mining included the mine location and weight (in metric tons) of crude ore, rock, or mineral produced at each mine in the United States, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands during 2004. Production data for coal mining included the weight, in metric tons, of coal produced in each county or county equivalent during 2004. Water-use coefficients for mined commodities were compiled from various sources including published reports and written communications from U.S. Geological Survey National Water-use Information Program (NWUIP) personnel in several states. Water withdrawals for oil and gas extraction were estimated for six States including California, Colorado, Louisiana, New Mexico, Texas, and Wyoming, by using data from State agencies that regulate oil and gas extraction. Total water withdrawals for mining in a county were estimated by summing estimated water withdrawals for nonfuels mining, coal mining, and oil and gas extraction.

The results of this study were distributed to NWUIP personnel in each State during 2007. NWUIP personnel were required to submit estimated withdrawals for numerous categories of use in their States to a national compilation team for inclusion in a national report describing water use in the United States during 2005. NWUIP personnel had the option of submitting the estimates determined by using the methods described in this report, a modified version of these estimates, or their own set of estimates or reported data.

Estimated withdrawals resulting from the methods described in this report may not be included in the national report; therefore the estimates are not presented herein in order to avoid potential inconsistencies with the national report. Water-use coefficients for specific minerals also are not presented to avoid potential disclosure of confidential production data provided by mining operations to the U.S. Geological Survey.

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