Water, water, but not everywhere

water use in USA

The United States has an abundance of fresh water, except in some regions, and draws on a variety of sources for water, in some regions… That’s one of the fundamental problems facing the world today– depending on what region you live in water is always an important resources but it can be a scarce one as well.

The map above shows total water use in the USA (freshwater and saline) for year 2000 (the latest version of data used in this map). It is based on county-level data and it gives you a general idea of where America’s water is used most.  In 2005, about 410,000 million gallons per day of water was used in the United States. About 80 percent of that was from surface water, of which 82 percent was freshwater.

Excellent resources for information on the infrastructure of water include:

Water: The Epic Struggle for Wealth, Power, and Civilization (2011) by Steven Solomon. This is a huge book, in scope if not in page count. Solomon writes extraordinarily well about the history and complex issues surrounding water use.  He tells the story of water, the resource, in context of the history of civilization in order to show the importance of water in human civilizations. He makes a persuasive case that the prosperity of nations has depended on their access to water and their ability to harness water resources.

The Atlas of Water, Second Edition: Mapping the World’s Most Critical Resource by Maggie Black and Janet King is a striking mix of maps, graphics, and charts, that also explores the history of water and its uses in civilizations. It does a good job of showing, in different data and visual representations, the development and impact of water infrastructure like dams water management systems.

When the Rivers Run Dry: Water–The Defining Crisis of the Twenty-first Century by Fred Pearce. The title really does tell the story.