Trends in Water Use in the United States, 1950 to 2015

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How has America's water use changed over the last 65 years? Are we using more or less water, and are there trends for different kinds of water use? 

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How has America's water use changed over the last 65 years? Are we using more or less water, and are there trends for different kinds of water use? There is a lot of information in the bar graph below. It shows the amount of water used for various categories of water use from 1950 to 2015.

Trends in total water withdrawals, 1950-2015

This chart shows the trends in freshwater and saline-water withdrawals for the Nation from 1950 to 2015. What is remarkable about this chart is that it shows that the Nation's water use peaked in 1980 and has been fairly steady since then. Many of the stresses for greater water use have risen since 1980, such as population, the need to grow more food (irrigation), more industry, etc, yet total water use has not risen. This shows that water conservation efforts and greater efficiencies in using water have had a positive effect in the last 35 years.

Trends in total fresh and saline water withdrawals, 1950-2015

Trends in total water withdrawals, 1950-2015

 

Trends in total freshwater withdrawals by source, 1950-2015

This chart shows the trends in surface-water, groundwater, and total-water withdrawals for the Nation from 1950 to 2015. Notice how the relative amounts of surface- and groundwater withdrawals (in percentages) has remained fairly constant. About three-fourths of the water used in America comes from surface water. 

Graph of trends in population and freshwater withdrawals by source, 1950-2015

Trends in population and freshwater withdrawals by source, 1950-2015.

 

Trends in total water withdrawals by category, 1950-2015

The bars that stand out most are the yellow ones -- freshwater for electricity production. Electricity water use increased almost 400 percent from 1950 to 2005, but dropped about 19 percent from 2005 to 2015. Irrigation water use increased by about 29 percent since 1950—it takes more water to grow food for our increasing population. Notice how after 1980 water use started to decrease a bit, possibly due to the Nation making more use of water-conservation measures. The purple public-supply boxes are important. Notice how they continue on an uptrend. Public-supply water (water withdrawn by the local county and city water departments and delivered to homes and businesses) goes to serve the Nation's normal water uses, such as supplying industries, restaurants, and homes with water. The Nation's ever-increasing population demands ever-increasing supplies of water.

Graph of trends in total water withdrawals by water-use category, 1950-2015

Trends in total water withdrawals by water-use category, 1950-2015

 

 

Trends in estimated use of water in the United States, 1950-2015

Data table showing trends in water use, 1950 to 2015

Source: Estimated Water Use in the United States in 2015