U.S. Geological Survey - science for a changing world

New Hampshire and Vermont Water Use Estimates for 2005 and Projections for 2020



Background Information and Terms

This page includes basic descriptions of:
   Water withdrawal
   Demand and types of use
   Consumptive use
   Return flow

Components of Water Use


Water withdrawal

Water is removed from surface water or groundwater to meet a need or demand of a water user. Withdrawals of groundwater or surface water go either directly to users (for example, via a well) to meet their demand or indirectly to users through a community water-system treatment and distribution system. A community water system (CWS) is a public water system that supplies water to the same population (at least 25 people or a minimum of 15 connections) year round. Public suppliers provide water for a variety of uses, such as domestic, commercial, industrial, thermoelectric power, and public water use. [More on public water systems from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.]


Water demand and types of water use

Water is provided to users to meet specific water-use needs or demands, such as, for domestic (household), commercial, or industrial purposes. Water demand can be estimated based on the type and size of water-use activity. For example, in estimating water demand for a hotel, the number of guest and conference rooms, restaurants, pools (swimming, Jacuzzi, sauna), and amount of lawn irrigation, fountains, and central air-conditioning are taken into account. The demand is met through a combination of self-supplied withdrawals and deliveries from community water systems. Current demand is the basis for projecting future withdrawals that need to meet the future demand. Data were collected or estimated for these categories of water use.  

Photo showing a dammed river; click to enlarge; photo by Photo by USDA NRCS/Tim McCabe

Commercial - Water for motels, hotels, restaurants, office buildings, other commercial facilities, and military and nonmilitary institutions.
Domestic - Water used for all such indoor household purposes as drinking, food preparation, bathing, washing clothes and dishes, flushing toilets, and such outdoor purposes as watering lawns and gardens.
Fish hatchery -
Water used for raising fish for later release and in association with the operation of fish hatcheries or fishing preserves.
Industrial - Water used for fabrication, processing, washing, and cooling, and includes such industries as chemical and allied products, food, bottled water, mining, paper and allied products, petroleum refining, and steel.
Irrigation - Water that is applied by an irrigation system to assist in the growing of crops and pastures or to maintain vegetative growth in recreational lands such as parks and golf courses.
Livestock - Water for livestock watering, feedlots, dairy operations, and other on-farm needs.1
Mining - Water used for the extraction of naturally occurring minerals including solids, such as coal, sand, gravel, and other ores; liquids, such as crude petroleum; and gases, such as natural gas. Also includes uses associated with quarrying, milling, and other preparations customarily done at the mine site or as part of a mining activity. Does not include water associated with dewatering of the aquifer that is not put to beneficial use.
Snowmaking - Water used during the winter at ski areas to increase snow coverage of ski trails.
Thermoelectric power - Water used in the process of generating electricity with steam-driven turbine generators.
Hydroelectric power - Water used to produce electricity at plants where the power generators are driven by flowing water.2

  Photo showing water at a fish hatchery; click to enlarge
Photo showing a groundwater well used in a community water system; click to enlarge NAIP imagery showing a reservoir used for public water; click to enlarge
Photo showing people at a community swimming pool; click to enlarge Photo showing children at a water park; click to enlarge
Photo showing a public water system's treatment room; click to enlarge Photo showing a horse drinking; click to enlarge
  1 Water use estimates for livestock were not estimated by census block for New Hampshire
2 Water use estimates for hydroelectric power were not estimated by census block for Vermont


Consumptive use

Consumptive use of water occurs primarily through evaporation or transpiration, or through incorporation of water into products or crops. How the water is used determines the rate of consumptive use. For example, bottling, an industrial process, has a high rate of consumptive use (up to 100 percent) because a high percentage of the withdrawn water is incorporated in the water, beer, soda, or other product being bottled. Apparel manufacturing has a low rate of consumptive use (less than 5 percent) because water is not an integral part of the production. The NH Seacoast study, using statistical techniques, developed a project-area average of 16 percent consumptive use for domestic demand. Knowledge of consumptive use is becoming increasingly important, because it represents water that is “lost” to water users in the immediate area.


Return flow

Water is returned to surface-water or groundwater resources after use or wastewater treatment and, thus, becomes available for reuse. Community wastewater treatments systems (also known as Publicly Owned Treatment Works (POTW) in the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) Program) include wastewater collection through sewers which convey wastewater to the treatment plant. Stormwater may also be conveyed to the treatment plant. After treatment, water is usually discharged to a stream, but can also be discharged to groundwater, or reclaimed for irrigation or non-potable cooling. Return flow can go directly to surface water, directly to groundwater through an injection well or infiltration bed, or indirectly to groundwater through septic systems. The amount of water returned is dependent on the amount of water “lost” to consumptive use. For example, a domestic withdrawal of 75 gal/d per person would result in an approximate return flow of 63 gal/d per person if the consumptive use rate is 16 percent.


USGS New Hampshire-Vermont Office web pages:

USGS Home Water Resources Biology Geography Geology Geospatial Program

Accessibility FOIA Privacy Policies and Notices

U.S. Department of the Interior | U.S. Geological Survey
URL: http://vt.water.usgs.gov/projects/nhvtwateruse/background.htm
Page Contact Information:
Page Last Modified: Wednesday, 25-Jan-2017 13:27:48 EST