Mining Water Use

Science Center Objects

Like all other industries, mining corporations need water to make bare rock give up its valuable minerals.

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Mining Water Use

Hydraulic mining techniques, California, 1870s

Hydraulic mining, California, 1870s. This photo shows hydraulic mining activity at the Malakoff Diggings in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada in the 1870s. Hydraulic mining was a variation on ground sluicing where the water delivered to the site would be shot through a nozzle at high pressure onto the face of the cliff, thereby washing away tons of boulders, gravel, dirt, and, in the hopes of the miners, ounces of gold. These "water cannons" were indeed very powerful—they could throw 185,000 cubic feet of water in an hour with a velocity of 150 feet per second. The environmental destruction they could do was also powerful. (Credit: Carleton E. Watkins)

Mining has played an important part in the development of this Nation. Even before the first European settlers set foot on this continent and mined coal to heat their homes, Native Americans were using coal to bake clay for vessels. The United States now produces a wide variety of mined commodities from gold to coal to "exotic" minerals used in everything from pharmaceuticals to jewelry to high-tech products. All these products would not be possible without the use of water in mining.

 

Mining water use in the United States

Every five years, water withdrawal and use data at the county level are compiled into a national water-use data system, and state-level data are published in a national circular. 

Access the most recent National, state, and county mining data, maps, and diagrams.