Public Supply Water Use

Science Center Objects

It is likely the water you use at home is brought to you by a public water-supply system. These are agencies, such as you local county government, that find and get the water that is delivered to not only your home, but to many businesses and industries. Most of the population of the United States gets their water this way.

•  Water Science School HOME  •  Water Use topics  •

Public Supply Water Use

This example of Public water use, blue water tower in field with winter trees blue sky. Half the letters of Seneca visible.

A water tower in Seneca, New York used to hold public-supply water for use by residents and businesses in the town.

No doubt the first public-supply water system was when Jack the Caveman was hired by his neighbors to fetch a bucket of water from Dinosaur River in exchange for some delicious prehistoric bran muffins. If you read our fictional tale about starting a new town in the desert, you'll see that even in a town with a population of one person, a plan to get, use, and dispose of water is always needed. Public and private water-supply organizations that get water, clean it and deliver it to local residents exist anywhere people exist.

Public water-supply systems, which you might know better as the county and city water departments, are vitally important to all populations. These are government or privately-run facilities that withdraw water from rivers, lakes, reservoirs, and wells and then deliver it to our homes, businesses, and schools. The majority of the population (about 86 percent) of the United States nowadays gets their water in this manner. You probably get your home drinking water this way. In the past, when the population was a lot more rural, people used to have to dig their own wells and create storage tanks for their water supply. But with large numbers of people living in bigger cities the public-supply systems do that work for us. All we do is turn on the tap ...oh, and pay the bills.

For this site, public supply refers to water withdrawn by public and private water suppliers that provide water to at least 25 people or have a minimum of 15 connections. Public-supply water is delivered to users for domestic, commercial, and industrial purposes, and also is used for public services and system losses.

 

Public-supply withdrawals for 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 public-supply data, maps, and diagrams.