Thursday, October 29, 2009

Water Use in U.S. Less in 2005 Than In 1975

Well here's a bit of good news.  According to a new report, water use in the U.S. was less in 2005 than in 1975, in spite of a 30% increase in population during this period.

The report shows that in 2005 Americans used 410 billion gallons per day, slightly less than in 2000. The declines are attributed to the increased use of more efficient irrigation systems and alternative technologies at power plants. Water withdrawals for public supply have increased steadily since 1950--when USGS began the series of five-year trend reports--along with the population that depends on these supplies.

Nearly half (49 percent) of the 410 billion gallons per day used by Americans was for producing electricity at thermoelectric power plants. Irrigation accounted for 31 percent and public supply 11 percent of the total. The remaining 9 percent of the water was for self-supplied industrial, livestock, aquaculture, mining and rural domestic uses.

I honestly had no idea that this much of our fresh water is used to produce electricity.  Given that water is the next oil, this is yet another reason why we need a massive effort to advance wind, solar and energy efficiency technologies.  We just can't afford to be using this much fresh water to produce electricity (which is an issue with solar thermal plants as well -- though they can use alternative fluids).

On irrigation, we can do far better still, and the amount of water that gets sucked out of rivers to feed crops and livestock in deserts is still pretty obscene. 

But findings like these serve as a nice reminder that our efforts to improve the efficiency with which we use resources are working.  We've got a long way to go though -- including to reduce public consumption, which is an area of water use that continued to rise...

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