Water use across the country reached its lowest recorded level in nearly 45 years. According to a new U.S. Geological Survey report, about 355 billion gallons of water per day (Bgal/d) were withdrawn for use in the entire United States during 2010. This represents a 13 percent reduction of water use from 2005 when about 410 Bgal/d were withdrawn and the lowest level since before 1970. Since 2005, freshwater withdrawals for irrigation declined by 9%. One can expect to see similar reductions in water use for agriculture as technologies improve, as long as those technologies aren’t bogged down in unnecessary bureaucracy and red tape.
Much of the decrease in water demand in irrigation is due to improvements in equipment. However, as new genetic and trait opportunities come to market, we can expect to see greater water use efficiency by the crops themselves.
“Reaching this 45-year low shows the positive trends in conservation that stem from improvements in water-use technologies and management,” said Mike Connor, deputy secretary of the Interior. “Even as the U.S. population continues to grow, people are learning to be more water conscious and do their part to help sustain the limited freshwater resources in the country.”
"Irrigation withdrawals in the United States continued to decline since 2005, and more croplands were reported as using higher-efficiency irrigation systems in 2010,” said Molly Maupin, USGS hydrologist. “Shifts toward more sprinkler and micro-irrigation systems nationally and declining withdrawals in the West have contributed to a drop in the national average application rate from 2.32 acre-feet per acre in 2005 to 2.07 acre-feet per acre in 2010."
In 2010, more than 50 percent of the total withdrawals in the United States were accounted for by 12 states in order of withdrawal amounts: California, Texas, Idaho, Florida, Illinois, North Carolina, Arkansas, Colorado, Michigan, New York, Alabama and Ohio.
“Since 1950, the USGS has tracked the national water-use statistics,” said Suzette Kimball, acting USGS director. “By providing data down to the county level, we are able to ensure that water resource managers across the nation have the information necessary to make strong water-use and conservation decisions.”
The USGS is the world’s largest provider of water data and the premier water research agency in the federal government.