Magazine article Science News

Bigger U.S. Population Uses Less Water

Magazine article Science News

Bigger U.S. Population Uses Less Water

Article excerpt

Despite growing population, the United States is now saving 38 billion gallons of water a day--enough to fill Lake Erie in a decade--compared to the all-time high consumption, almost 20 years ago.

Every 5 years, the U.S Geological Survey compiles national water-use rates from millions of numbers supplied by state agencies. Statistics for1995, released this month, show that nation of 37 million more people managed with 10 percent less water than 1980--a drop from 440 to 402 billion gallons a day.

"Now, there's a general awareness that water isn't an infinite resource," says Wayne B. Solley of the USGS Water Resource Division in Reston, Va., a coauthor of the current report. "We're not building new reservoirs every time we need water."

Current attitudes are also reflected in a lower per capita delivery of water to homes and industries by the public companies, which served 84 percent of the population in1995. This decrease is the first since reporting began 1950. New requirements for water-efficient fixtures and low-flush toilets help conserve water on the home front, Solley says, and industries are recycling more water

It's agriculture and power generation, however, that have the biggest effect on total use. Crops and electric power plants typically swallow up to 80 percent of the country,s water.

More efficient irrigation is a major reason for the downward trend, says Robert R. Pierce of the USGS in Atlanta, another coauthor of the report. Older irrigation systems that spray water into the air, like a lawn sprinkler, waste the water through evaporation. …

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