USGS Report Shows How Groundwater From Principal Aquifers Is Used

More than 90 percent of groundwater withdrawals are used for irrigation, public supply (deliveries to homes, businesses, and industry), and self-supplied industrial uses, according to the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS).

In its latest report (released on Aug. 1) on water use in the United States, the USGS looked at the nation's dependence on groundwater. The report provides details of groundwater withdrawals and use from principal aquifers in each state.

On a daily basis, 76.5 billion gallons are used for these three purposes with irrigation accounting for nearly three-quarters of this amount. California and Nebraska use more ground water for irrigation than any other states; 8,910 million gallons per day in California and 7,050 million gallons per day in Nebraska.

According to USGS Chief Hydrologist Robert Hirsch, "Across the county, groundwater is becoming more vital to agricultural and industrial production and to the viability of communities in both arid and humid regions. Each of these sectors needs information about the current use of groundwater resources to help them predict future rates of water use. These water-use data, when coupled with a scientific understanding of how aquifers respond to rates of withdrawal, are crucial for regional water planning."

The report shows that more than half of the combined groundwater withdrawals for irrigation, public supply and self-supplied industrial water uses are coming from four principal aquifers: the High Plains aquifer (Colorado, Kansas, Nebraska, New Mexico, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Texas and Wyoming), the Central Valley aquifer (California), the Mississippi River Valley alluvial aquifer along the lower Mississippi River (Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri and Tennessee), and the Basin and Range aquifers predominantly located in the desert Southwest (Arizona, California, Idaho, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon and Utah). Irrigation is overwhelmingly the largest use of the water from each of these aquifers.

Aquifers that produce the most water for public supply are the glacial sand and gravel aquifers in a large region that extends from Maine to Montana and southward toward Kentucky; the California Coastal Basin aquifers; and the Floridan aquifer system of Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, and Alabama.

The full report, Estimated Withdrawals from Principal Aquifers in the United States, 2000, is available online at http://pubs.water.usgs.gov/circ1279.

This article originally appeared in the 08/01/2005 issue of Environmental Protection.

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