US citizens use less water

Newly released statistics on water use by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) show that the US is using less water-- 402 billion gallons per day (bgd) for all uses, which is 2 percent less than in 1990 and nearly 10 percent less than in 1980, despite a continuous increase in population over that same time period.

Freshwater per-capita use also decreased for 1995. Total per-capita use was 1,280 gallons per day (gal/d), compared to 1,340 gal/d in 1990. The USGS has compiled and reported national water-use statistics once every 5 years since 1950. After continual increases in the nation’s total use of surface and ground water for the years reported from 1950 to 1980, water use declined and has remained fairly constant since the mid-1980s, according to the USGS report. “If you were to ask people if the nation was using more or less water now than say 15 or 20 years ago, the vast majority probably would say that we are using more water now,” said Robert Hirsch, USGS chief hydrologist.

“The overall decline in water use is an encouraging signal. The nation is clearly using surface- and ground-water resources more efficiently,” Hirsch said. “Enhanced citizen awareness of the value of water and conservation programs in many communities across the country have helped to cut water use in spite of continued population growth. Improved irrigation techniques and more efficient use of water by industry have contributed to reduced water use as well.” Long-term concerns remain about the quality of available water, however. “With increased demands for water for instream uses such as river-based recreation, aesthetic enjoyment and fish and wildlife habitat, the overall competition for good quality water will continue to increase,” Hirsch said

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