Which uses more water and how much, industry or the general public?
—Frank, in Dubuque, Iowa
Industry, primarily for electric power plants and irrigation, draws a lot more water than the general public. Of the total of 410 billion gallons per day drawn in the United States, around 29.5 billion were used directly by households, or about 7 percent of the total, according to the latest data from the U.S. Geological Service. Electric power plants required around 200 billion gallons per day for steam and cooling, while irrigation soaked up 128 billion gallons.
However, if we add the indirect residential water consumption that results from residences using about 38 percent of U.S. total electric use of 3.750 trillion kilowatt hours per year, then the total residential use shoots up to around 105.5 billion gallons per day, or roughly 25 percent of the total. This may be one of the best-kept secrets of our times, but a rather telling example of truth of that famous statement by the Sierra Club’s illustrious founder John Muir: “All things are hitched.” Meaning that if we had the good sense to cut our electrical consumption, our water use would diminish correspondingly.