Distribution of Freshwater in the U.S.
The U.S. has some of the world’s largest concentrations of fresh water. It is unevenly distributed, however.
- The Great Lakes region — touching Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania and New York — is the world’s largest surface fresh water system.
- The High Plains Aquifer system, including the Ogallala aquifer, stretches across 174,000 square miles under parts of Colorado, Kansas, Nebraska, New Mexico, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Texas and Wyoming. It’s one of the world’s largest sources of fresh groundwater, with nearly 3 billion acre-feet of fresh water in 2011. It is also being depleted.
At current consumption rates, Texas' portion of the aquifer will go dry in about 140 YEARS.
Unfortunately, some of the nation’s most water-poor regions (or those most vulnerable to water scarcity) are among its fastest growing.
Sources: The World Resources Institute aqueduct water risk assessment map; The U.S. Census Bureau, "Population Distribution and Change: 2000 to 2010."
- Recent estimates indicate that 17 percent of the U.S. population is vulnerable to water scarcity issues.
- More than a decade ago, the U.S. Department of Energy noted that most of the states experiencing extraordinary population growth at the time were in areas that were already water-stressed, including Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, Colorado, Nevada, California and Oklahoma.
- While the recent recession blunted growth in at least some of these states, the general trend can be expected to continue.
How Does America Use Water?
The U.S. uses about 349 billion gallons of fresh water every day.
Its uses fall in eight general categories:
||Percent of Total
Totals may not add due to rounding. “Mining” category includes oil and gas production. “Domestic use” represents water obtained from private wells.
Source: U.S. Geological Survey, Estimated Use of Water in the United States in 2005
To see the ways that Texans use water — and find out how those uses are expected to change in coming decades — read page 4 of Texas Water Report: Going Deeper for the Solution (PDF).