2
The National Water-Use Information Program: Past and Present

Water use consists of withdrawal, conveyance, distribution, application, discharge, and reuse interwoven in a complex web of interrelated pathways and activities (Buchmiller et al., 2000). These uses are strongly influenced by environmental, economic, behavioral, and other natural and human society-based systems, as well as by the quality and quantity of the available water. Many consumers, including local and regional water management agencies, policymakers, scientists, teachers, and students, employ data on water use. The data are needed for water management planning because the national water supply is finite, and there is growing competition for this limited resource. Further, water management now involves more complexities than ever, including aquifer storage and recovery, artificial recharge, water reuse (both irrigation and wastewater), desalination (seawater and groundwater), and interbasin transfers. High-quality water use data are needed to establish water use trends and to forecast the effects of existing and contemplated policies. They are also needed to develop water use regulations to control undesirable trends, such as salt-water intrusion or groundwater overdraft, and to ensure maximum beneficial use of our water resources.

Water use data can also help us better understand the hydrologic and biogeochemical cycles and how humans impact these cycles. In particular, the influence of water use today on environmental systems is significant and will continue to increase (Buchmiller et al., 2000). Good water use data will assist policymakers in allocating funds for projects that ensure the proper balance between protection of the natural environment and societal use of the water resources.

In this chapter, we summarize the history of the National Water-Use Information Program (NWUIP), address the question of whether the U.S. Geological



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Estimating Water Use in the United States: A New Paradigm for the National Water-Use Information Program 2 The National Water-Use Information Program: Past and Present Water use consists of withdrawal, conveyance, distribution, application, discharge, and reuse interwoven in a complex web of interrelated pathways and activities (Buchmiller et al., 2000). These uses are strongly influenced by environmental, economic, behavioral, and other natural and human society-based systems, as well as by the quality and quantity of the available water. Many consumers, including local and regional water management agencies, policymakers, scientists, teachers, and students, employ data on water use. The data are needed for water management planning because the national water supply is finite, and there is growing competition for this limited resource. Further, water management now involves more complexities than ever, including aquifer storage and recovery, artificial recharge, water reuse (both irrigation and wastewater), desalination (seawater and groundwater), and interbasin transfers. High-quality water use data are needed to establish water use trends and to forecast the effects of existing and contemplated policies. They are also needed to develop water use regulations to control undesirable trends, such as salt-water intrusion or groundwater overdraft, and to ensure maximum beneficial use of our water resources. Water use data can also help us better understand the hydrologic and biogeochemical cycles and how humans impact these cycles. In particular, the influence of water use today on environmental systems is significant and will continue to increase (Buchmiller et al., 2000). Good water use data will assist policymakers in allocating funds for projects that ensure the proper balance between protection of the natural environment and societal use of the water resources. In this chapter, we summarize the history of the National Water-Use Information Program (NWUIP), address the question of whether the U.S. Geological

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Estimating Water Use in the United States: A New Paradigm for the National Water-Use Information Program Survey (USGS) should continue to be its coordinating agency, and outline some of the major challenges faced by the NWUIP. Finally, noting the dependence of the national program on data supplied by the individual states, we summarize the kinds of water use data collected by each of the 50 states. HISTORY OF WATER-USE INFORMATION PROGRAMS AT THE USGS Information on water use in the United States before 1950 is limited. Water use data were collected and collated on an ad hoc basis by various federal agencies and other organizations with specific needs and objectives, such as the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), U.S. Bureau of the Census, U.S. Forest Service, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps), and U.S. Bureau of Reclamation (USBR). Picton (1952) estimated water use in the United States from 1900 to 1950, and Guyton (1950) estimated national groundwater use in 1945. Estimated Use of Water in the United States – 1950 was the first report in what has become a 50-year series of five-year reports published by the USGS (MacKichan, 1951). This first report was followed by nine other reports from 1955 through 1995 (MacKichan, 1957; MacKichan and Kammerer, 1961; Murray, 1968; Murray and Reeves, 1972, 1977; Solley et al., 1983, 1988, 1993, and 1998) (Figure 2.1). The 1950–1975 reports were compiled at USGS headquarters prior to the establishment of the NWUIP. Information was gathered from a variety of sources, including USGS district offices and state and federal agencies. It was recognized from the beginning that the water use data were subject to considerable error and were to be used only as estimates (MacKichan, 1951). These USGS reports contained compilations and estimates of water use for various use categories for each state and water resources region. These data were further subdivided by surface water and groundwater use. The 1951 report created a template for the future reports; it made estimates for “withdrawal” uses, including municipal use, rural domestic and livestock use, irrigation use, industrial use from private sources, and water power. “Nonwithdrawal uses” such as navigation, waste disposal, recreation, and fish and wildlife also were qualitatively discussed (MacKichan, 1951). Changes in the report format through 1975 were minimal. Consumptive use of water was estimated beginning in 1960, and some water uses were reclassified. However, the 1975 report was remarkably similar to the 1950 report, with categories including “(1) public supply (for domestic, commercial, and industrial uses), (2) rural (domestic and livestock), (3) irrigation, and (4) self-supplied industrial (including thermoelectric power),” along with hydroelectric power (Murray and Reeves, 1977). The potential use of the data for trend analysis of the different water use categories was recognized as early as the second report, which con-

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Estimating Water Use in the United States: A New Paradigm for the National Water-Use Information Program FIGURE 2.1 The USGS national water-use report for 1995. SOURCE: Solley et al. (1998). tained a table showing the percent change in withdrawals from 1950 to 1955 (MacKichan, 1957). Figure 2.2 shows the trends in fresh groundwater and surface water withdrawals and in population for 1950–1995. The NWUIP formally began in 1978. Language approving the program appeared in the House version of the 1978 appropriations bill, which included “an increase … in the federal-state cooperative program [which includes] $1,000,000 to establish a national water use data activity.” The Senate concurred, and the conference committee made no further mention of the program. The congressional language apparently did not specify the five-year time period that has become the norm for the USGS national water use compilations and reports (Wendy Norton, USGS, written communication, 2001). The first full-time manager was soon appointed to the program, and by 1981, 47 states were participating in the program (Solley et al., 1983). When the NWUIP was established, the USGS became concerned with data quality control and data management. By 1980, the National Water-Use Data

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Estimating Water Use in the United States: A New Paradigm for the National Water-Use Information Program FIGURE 2.2 Trends in fresh groundwater and surface water withdrawals and population, 1950–1995. SOURCE: Solley et al. (1998). System (NWUDS) was organized to store water withdrawal and use data by county and basin. This was later updated and renamed the Aggregated Water-Use Data System (AWUDS). By 1982, the Site-Specific Water-Use Data System (SWUDS) had been prepared and distributed to districts interested in using it. Detailed guidelines for water use report preparation were distributed (Lumia, 2000). In the first decade or so of the NWUIP’s existence, additional data elements and categories were added. For example, self-supplied industrial use was subdivided into industrial, mining, and power (fossil fuel, geothermal, and nuclear) categories. Groundwater withdrawal reports specified the aquifer from which the water was extracted. Water use data were submitted by four-digit hydrologic unit or drainage basin. By 1990, estimates were made for thermoelectric power and wastewater releases, and consumptive use was estimated for all major water use categories (Solley et al., 1993). However, financial and institutional pressures have forced the program to scale back the planned 2000 report (Figure 2.3). The water use categories for which data are being compiled at the county level for all states are public supply, industrial, thermoelectric, and irrigation. Mining, livestock, and aquaculture water use are obligatory only for the states where water use for these categories is large. Withdrawals from major aquifer systems are required only for public supply, irrigation, and industry. Commercial use, wastewater treatment, reservoir evaporation, and hydroelectric power are no longer being tracked, nor are

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Estimating Water Use in the United States: A New Paradigm for the National Water-Use Information Program FIGURE 2.3 Comparison of data models (source, use, and disposition) for 1995 and 2000 national water use summaries. Data for unshaded boxes are not required for 2000 summary. Note loss of estimates for consumptive use and return flows. Volumes and percentages are for illustrative purposes only. Details on mandatory elements for different states are in Figure 3.2. Modified from NWUIP figures.

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Estimating Water Use in the United States: A New Paradigm for the National Water-Use Information Program consumptive use, reclaimed wastewater, return flows, or deliveries from public suppliers. The loss of many of the water use categories has obvious implications for local and regional studies of water availability and for studies of how human use of water impacts the quantity, quality, and sustainability of water resource systems, as described in Chapters 7 and 8. In brief, regional studies of water availability require the tracking of consumptive use and of locations and volumes of return flow such as wastewater discharge. Further, return flows must be linked to the stream or aquifer to which they discharge. Jurisdictions with complex water management and accounting concerns, such as aquifer storage and recovery, artificial recharge, water reuse, desalination, total maximum daily load (TMDL) issues, and/or interbasin transfers will not find the present categories sufficient for their needs. Many of these jurisdictions will continue to collect these data for their own purposes even though such data will no longer be tracked at the national level. From the language of the 1978 House Appropriations bill, it is clear that the NWUIP was intended from the beginning to be within the USGS Cooperative Water (Coop) Program. This relationship provided a relatively constant source of funding, but it created structural limitations, which are discussed later in this chapter and elsewhere in the report. From fiscal year 1978 to 1985, federal funding for the water use program grew rapidly from $1.0 million to $5.0 million (USGS, 1981), and these funds were matched at 100 percent or more by the various state cooperators. However, from 1983 to the present, funding has remained fairly flat. The NWUIP is no longer specified as a line item in the budget submission to Congress (Lumia, 2000), but the federal share of the NWUIP funding is on the order of $4.5 million to $5 million (Wayne Solley, USGS, personal communication, 2000). In the early years of the NWUIP, state cooperators were not required to provide their Coop Program match as direct funds, but were encouraged to enter the program through credits for “direct services” (i.e., credit for providing resources that can be used in the project, such as office space for a USGS water use specialist, supplies, etc.). Sometimes state cooperators were given “reverse flow credits” (Pierce, 1993). With this mechanism, a state matches the federal Coop contribution to pay for personnel to do the compilation. However, within a few years, the reverse flow credits were discontinued, and now even direct services matching is discouraged in most of the USGS regions (Lumia, 2000). This administrative structure has constrained the NWUIP in important ways, as is detailed later in this chapter. SHOULD USGS CONTINUE TO ADMINISTER THE PROGRAM? The NWUIP was established at the USGS, but it is important to consider whether this remains appropriate. Below we summarize some of the issues that must be taken into consideration.

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Estimating Water Use in the United States: A New Paradigm for the National Water-Use Information Program The USGS is a nonregulatory agency. A number of federal agencies have strong mission-driven interests and technical expertise in water use. For example, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has a well-defined interest in water use supporting its national water resource planning and management responsibilities. Development of the IWR-MAIN water use model (Davis et al., 1991) was principally supported by the Corps. However, the Corps also regulates water use, including construction of water withdrawal structures and impoundments, in navigable waterways. These roles, which have traditionally emphasized municipal, industrial, and navigation uses, are principally regulatory, planning, and management—not scientific—roles. Likewise, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has strong regulatory interests in water use because it is the primary federal agency regulating drinking water and wastewater discharges. The EPA interest in water use is driven by risk management through wellhead protection and source-water protection programs and the Safe Drinking Water Act and by how water use information is used in risk assessments for exposure to toxic chemicals and waterborne pathogens. Certainly these agencies can and do provide scientifically defensible data in many areas. But there have also been controversies, and the committee believes that these controversies are more likely where the data are reported by a regulatory agency. As water resources become increasingly stressed with an ever-increasing number of competing uses and users, it seems preferable to assure the public that water use estimates are as free from political influence as possible. Unlike the Corps, the EPA, and many other agencies, the USGS’s interest in water use is wholly nonregulatory. Water use relates to all major forms of economic activity. Various government agencies other than the USGS study water use for specific purposes. The most extensive of these efforts is that of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) conducts a Census of Agriculture (i.e., a “complete” inventory) every five years, including county-level information on number of acres irrigated by crop (USDA, 1999a). The Farm and Ranch Irrigation Survey (FRIS) (USDA, 1999b), a stratified random sample of about 10 percent of the Census farms, is then conducted one to two years after the Census and is reported at the state level. The FRIS collects data on water sources (groundwater, on-farm surface supply, and water from off-farm suppliers, which can include both ground and surface water), estimates of farm water applications (not withdrawals or consumptive use), and irrigation practices. The USDA Economic Research Service (ERS) uses data from the Census, the FRIS, and other agencies (e.g., USBR and USGS) for research on topics such as the economic value of water use and behavioral determinants of water use in agricultural production (Moore et al., 1994a, b; Schaible et al., 1995) and efficacy and equity of market mechanisms and policy actions (Anderson and Magleby, 1997; Morehart et al., 1999).

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Estimating Water Use in the United States: A New Paradigm for the National Water-Use Information Program Although many aspects of the USDA program may serve as a model for the USGS water use program, the USDA program views water primarily as an economic input for agricultural production. However useful this perspective may be, it is not broad enough for a generalized national water use program. Domestic, industrial, thermoelectric, and other kinds of water use may be just as important to track and to compare with each other. Water use is an important component of the hydrologic cycle. Although water use may be viewed in purely economic terms (see Chapter 4 for a discussion of input-output and materials flow analysis by the Bureau of Economic Analysis [BEA] and others), it may also be seen as the anthropogenic component of the hydrologic cycle. From this perspective, water use is as fundamental a part of the water cycle as precipitation, evaporation, and groundwater recharge and discharge. Users such as water-supply companies, consultants, and state and local government would naturally come to the USGS for their other hydrologic data and information, and it seems reasonable that the USGS would supply them with water use data as well. The USGS has experience with hydrologic and hydrographic databases. The USGS administers the National Hydrography Dataset (NHD)—a set of digital spatial data on surface water features such as lakes, ponds, streams, rivers, springs, and wells. The NHD combines USGS national map information with river network information from the EPA. Surface water features are combined to form “river reaches,” which provide the framework for linking water-related data to the NHD surface water drainage network. Water use data, including points of intake and National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) locations, can potentially be integrated with this dataset, as could water quality data from the USGS or the EPA. This integration would create a powerful tool for evaluating future water quality and quantity trends. The USGS also operates NWIS (National Water Information System)—available on the Internet. The NWIS is a data system that includes real-time and historic data on streamflow and stage, groundwater levels, and water quality. Site-specific and aggregated water use data are also part of the NWIS system, although they are not yet well integrated with the other data types. The Site-Specific Water-Use Data System (SWUDS), will soon be fully compatible with other NWIS programs, and it should be ready for the NWIS 4.2 release in the spring of 2002 (T. Augenstein, USGS, personal communication, 2001). The USGS operates other resource assessment programs. Opportunities for interaction of the NWUIP with other assessment programs in the USGS are possible, including the Minerals Information Team, which collects, analyzes, and disseminates information on the domestic and international supply of and demand for minerals and mineral materials, and the National Oil and Gas Project, which

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Estimating Water Use in the United States: A New Paradigm for the National Water-Use Information Program periodically assesses oil and natural gas resources and the potential of growing the reserve supply of the United States. In summary, water use can be viewed through many different lenses (see Chapter 4), and there may be no single location for a national water use program that is “ideal” for every possible use of such information. Thus, a case could be made to place the NWUIP in any of the other agencies mentioned in this section (EPA, Corps, USDA, BEA) and possibly others (e.g., Bureau of the Census, USBR). Nevertheless, on the whole, the USGS’s traditional role as the nation’s nonregulatory, unbiased source of earth science data and information for multiple uses and users makes it a good choice to continue to run such a program. However, as will be made clear later in this report, there is much that can be learned from other resource inventory programs within the federal government. The committee articulates a vision in which the water use program would remain within the USGS, but would maintain strong links to other programs such as the Farm and Ranch Irrigation Survey of the USDA. The water use program would have strong management and data links to USGS programs in groundwater resources, stream gaging, and water quality, but it would also maximize collaboration and coordination with other agencies that collect and store agricultural, industrial, demographic, and land use data, especially at the county level. CHALLENGES FACED BY THE CURRENT PROGRAM The USGS has achieved considerable success with the NWUIP and its predecessors over the past 50 years. It is easy to lose sight of the fact that half a century ago, the country knew very little about its use of such a vital resource. The institutionalization of the NWUIP in 1978, in particular, was a major step forward. However, like all programs, it has its limitations and challenges. Before designing a vision for the future, it is important to understand these issues. The Cooperative Water (Coop) Program funding mechanism. A major constraint on the NWUIP is that the program was created within the Coop Program and has remained there. The Coop Program depends on matching funds from a state or local cooperator. This brings inherent limitations. States that place a high premium on collecting water use information tend to develop a high-quality water use program, generally in collaboration with the NWUIP. Other states do not. Federal funds that could be used directly for water use programs are either not spent at all in that state or are used for programs of less direct application to water use, such as stream gaging. The lack of a strong, stable headquarters staff. There have been, over the years, a number of dedicated NWUIP staff working for USGS headquarters. These people have historically coordinated the national compilation, organized

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Estimating Water Use in the United States: A New Paradigm for the National Water-Use Information Program water use training courses, developed and maintained site-specific and aggregated databases, performed limited quality control, communicated with Congress and with other USGS programs, and performed a wide range of other activities. However, the number of full-time staff at headquarters has only occasionally exceeded two persons and has sometimes consisted of a single individual. Recently, even that position has been eliminated, with additional responsibilities being placed on the four regional water use specialists and the chief of the Office of Ground Water. The limited number of national staff makes it difficult to do strategic planning, develop new estimation techniques, apply strategies used in one district to another nearby district, upgrade databases, and perform numerous other tasks necessary to long-term planning and management. Disparities in data availability and quality. The disparity in spending from district to district has the immediate and obvious consequence that the quality and quantity of data available vary greatly from state to state. This committee firmly believes in the value of high-quality data; however, it is also aware that each state collects exactly as much data as it believes it needs and is willing to pay for. This creates problems at the aggregate level. The USGS, because of its broader national mission, has the responsibility to make reasonable estimates for water use even in states where little data exist and in states where there is no funding for a USGS water use specialist. The question arises as to who will pay the salary of the person who must make these estimates, at least once every five years for the national compilation. Whether this funding comes out of district-level “overhead” or elsewhere, there is an ad hoc nature to the process that probably does not serve the program well. The consequences of this process are twofold. First, there may be a regional or national interest in state-level data. River basins and aquifer systems cross state lines, and watershed management may be complicated by poor information in major parts of a basin. Interstate water transfers are common, and the legal and regulatory framework may be dependent upon accurate data from all of the states involved. National issues such as predicting and mitigating the effects of global climate change require baseline data over broad regions. Second, at the regional and national levels, trend analysis is also complicated by these disparities. Well-documented, quality-assured data from one district are mingled with poorly documented data from another district, the accuracy of which is highly questionable and poorly constrained. It is difficult, therefore, to draw conclusions concerning the confidence intervals surrounding national estimates and to determine whether changes in estimated water use are real or are random variations within the standard error of the data estimates. Water use data that are poorly integrated with other kinds of USGS water data. As noted earlier in this chapter, the USGS has a national database for water data—the National Water Information System, or NWIS. At present,

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Estimating Water Use in the United States: A New Paradigm for the National Water-Use Information Program real-time and historic data on streamflow and stage, groundwater levels, and water quality can all be easily downloaded from the system, but water use data are not available from the same platform. (Data aggregated at the county and watershed levels from the 1990 and 1995 surveys are available at http://water.usgs.gov/watuse.) Historically, it has generally been more difficult for users to access water use data than other kinds of water data. This situation will be partly solved with integration of the site-specific data system in the NWIS 4.2 release in 2002. However, difficulties with the integration of site-specific and aggregate data will presumably remain. This is partly because the existing AWUDS is antiquated, and the time and capital investment required to update it to a state-of-the-art level will be considerable. However, some issues are related to the various needs and limitations of the cooperators. SWUDS is only being used by a small number of state cooperators. Of those states that maintain site-specific data, many use commercial, off-the-shelf databases from which the data for SWUDS can be extracted as mandated. These commercial databases may also be used by other divisions within the state government, and therefore they provide a consistent platform between the various state agencies. They may also be frequently upgraded as desired. Other cooperators have developed their own software. One example of this is the Arkansas Soil and Water Conservation Commission, which found SWUDS slow and cumbersome and which wanted to be able to input the information in the field rather than having to send the raw data to the USGS. Further, the Commission also wanted to add non-water-related information, such as tax assessments, into the same database. Other state cooperators, such as the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, found that they could not use SWUDS because it asks for well-by-well data, whereas in Georgia, the data come in on a facility basis (i.e., with multiple wells lumped together). Various New England states wish to track consumptive use and recycled water, which the current version of SWUDS does not do. Thus, it will be difficult to construct a single, consistent database that most or all of the districts will use. Also, there are some states that maintain databases intermittently or not at all. In all states, water data that are received for archiving may come from other antiquated or one-of-a-kind systems (Box 2.1). Multiyear delays in publishing data. The nature of the water use data gathering process is very different from that of a stream gage or groundwater well equipped with telemetry. Unlike gages and wells that can transmit virtually real-time information, the collection of water use data may involve a survey, which may then be compiled and analyzed, transmitted to the USGS district office, aggregated in various ways, transmitted to the regional water use specialist or headquarters, compiled nationally, and finally published in the five-year national summary. This may be a lengthy process. Although most applications of water

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Estimating Water Use in the United States: A New Paradigm for the National Water-Use Information Program BOX 2.1 Case Study of an Anachronistic System At the water treatment plant in an Ohio town of 40,000, water pumpage is recorded at the plant by hand-transcribing numbers every eight hours from a computer screen. The computer software was custom-designed by a consultant in Ohio. The software is “a little bit primitive,” according to the plant operator, and data glitches occur frequently. When the operator recognizes an obvious data flaw, she is forced to omit data from the report to the state (Ohio Department of Water Resources, Division of Drinking and Ground Waters), leaving a gap in the pumping record. She sees a need for real-time, well-specific data for normal operations and a need for access to regional data for contingencies, including contamination and drought. She feels that the data collection system is anachronistic, given the available technology. use data do not demand real-time availability, there are exceptions to this general rule such as times of drought or contamination emergencies. Clearly, some of the process of making the data available to users can be expedited by the USGS; however, other aspects will always be out of its control, depending on the individual state or local governments. Network linkage to a central database would clearly expedite the data-delivery process, but this raises issues of quality control, data ownership, financial cost, and possibly security. Chapter 6 discusses the potential for generating estimates for any year by making adjustments for factors such as climate. Locally, great strides in real-time data collection have been made at local and even state levels. The fact that the producers are also users creates an incentive to improve access and delivery of data. As a result, many facilities, for their own purposes, already collect data digitally and then as a separate step aggregate it for mandatory reporting. Paucity of metadata. The regional water use specialists do their best to assure quality of data, and some quality assurance/quality control is provided within AWUDS software and through regional and national reviews of the data and the documentation. However, the quality of methodology documentation is highly variable from state to state (Molly Maupin, USGS, personal communication, 2000), and historically there have been difficulties in ascertaining exactly how water use estimates were made in certain districts. Additionally, cooperators may use inconsistent categories and definitions, and various data transformations may be made by the USGS water use specialist. Consequently, it is often difficult for the data user to determine the quality of the data collection effort and to assign confidence intervals to the published numbers. This is problematic, especially if

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Estimating Water Use in the United States: A New Paradigm for the National Water-Use Information Program the data are being analyzed for lawsuits, for environmentally sensitive applications, or for trend analysis. Data issues are discussed in more detail in Chapter 3. A wide range of data users. Earlier in this chapter, we described data-quality problems associated with the varied sources of water use data. The users of the data generated by the NWUIP, and their corresponding data needs, may be even more varied. Figure 2.4 summarizes some of this complex flow of water use data and information. Note that some entities are both suppliers and users of data. For example, a public water-supply district for a major city clearly represents a source of data for the NWUIP. This same institution may use irrigation water use trends for their region for forecasting water availability in the next decade. The three primary user groups are the following: those who need and collect data for their own purposes, such as billing, budgeting, allocation, resource management, lobbying, and accounting (this group includes the agencies listed in Table 2.1), FIGURE 2.4 A representative subset of the suppliers and users of water use data. Note that some entities are both suppliers and users of data.

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Estimating Water Use in the United States: A New Paradigm for the National Water-Use Information Program TABLE 2.1 Agencies that Need and Collect Water Use Data for Their Own Purposes Public water treatment utilities State cooperative extension services Wastewater treatment utilities Rural water associations American Water Works Association Agencies responsible for emergency planning Power utilities River basin commissions Public Utilities Commissions U.S. EPA (Publicly Owned Treatment Works) Industrial facilities U.S. EPA (NPDES compliance) State agencies responsible for allocation or resource management U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (hydroelectric) State agencies responsible for compliance with Clean Water Act, Safe Drinking Water Act U.S. Department of Energy, Energy Information Administration State health departments U.S. Bureau of Reclamation State geological surveys U.S. Bureau of Land Management State agencies regulating mining National Agricultural Statistics Service State departments of agriculture USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service decision and policy makers, including regional or state planning offices, legislative and executive branches of government, and state, federal, and local government (city councils, county commissioners, etc.), and educational institutions, including elementary and high schools, colleges, and universities. STATE WATER USE DATA COLLECTION PROGRAMS The NWUIP would not be able to function as it is presently constituted if it were not for water use data collected by the individual state governments for their own purposes. This raises the question, “What kinds of data are collected and stored by each state, and how often?” At the request of the committee, the USGS water use specialists undertook a survey of the current condition of water use data collection in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico to answer this question. The survey was significantly assisted by the four regional water use coordinators: Deborah Lumia (Northeastern Region), Joan Kenny (Central Region), Molly Maupin (Western Region), and Susan Hutson (Southeastern Region). The committee is indebted to these water use specialists and to their colleagues in each state for providing this information. A series of questions were addressed to the water use specialist in each state, and the responses were tabulated into spreadsheet format by Ms. Lumia. The

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Estimating Water Use in the United States: A New Paradigm for the National Water-Use Information Program spreadsheet information was then summarized in narrative form for each state by the committee, and the resulting summary was checked for accuracy by the regional water use coordinators. This survey should be considered only a first attempt to develop a comprehensive database of state water use policies. We also encourage follow-up studies on the impacts of these policies on local, regional, and national water resources and on water use patterns. SURVEY QUESTIONS The following nine questions were addressed to the USGS water use specialists in each state: Does your state have the legal authority to permit or register withdrawals? (If NO for all categories, stop here). Are withdrawals reported to the state? How often (e.g., annually, monthly) are withdrawals reported? What is the trigger level above which the law applies? For example, 10,000 gallons/day, 100,000 gallons/day in any 30-day period, etc. Is the law statewide or applicable only to certain parts of the state (counties or basins, for example)? Please indicate the applicable geographic area. Do the laws differ for groundwater and surface-water withdrawals? If so, how? Does your state maintain a database of reported withdrawals? If yes, how often is the database updated? Does your state store the latitude and longitude of groundwater wells, surface water intakes, or other water use entities? Does your state check the reported data against any other information? If so, what is used? Does your state track changes to the reported data? SURVEY RESULTS A narrative describing the results of the survey in each state is presented in Appendix A. The general character of the responses to each question is summarized here. There are two main purposes for collecting water use data: to support a water registration or permitting process and to support water resources management and planning. States may collect water use data for water management purposes even if they do not have the legal authority to permit water use. Public water supply is regulated by the EPA through state agencies using more consistent procedures than apply to other categories of water use.

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Estimating Water Use in the United States: A New Paradigm for the National Water-Use Information Program The most complete site-specific water use data programs collect monthly water use and store it in a database that is updated annually. More typically, data on water use are collected and stored annually and are updated annually. The most frequently cited trigger level for collecting water use data for all users is for average withdrawals exceeding 100,000 gallons per day. Other trigger levels used are 50,000 gallons per day, 10,000 gallons/day, and a variety of other discharge rates expressed in various units. Most states treat water use uniformly throughout the state. However, a significant number of states have special data collection requirements for particular groundwater resource regions, such as the Eastern Snake Plain aquifer in Idaho, or Long Island, New York. Florida’s five water management districts each have different reporting requirements, some based on well discharge and others on well diameter. In a few states (Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico), the state engineer has great latitude in issuing water permits and in deciding which permit holders must submit data on their withdrawals. Laws governing water use are the same for surface water and groundwater in most states, but in some Western states, (e.g., Colorado, Nebraska, Texas), there is a significant distinction between water use data collection programs for surface water and those for groundwater. Data on surface water use are collected more universally than data on groundwater use. Most states that collect data store the results in a database or have the USGS maintain their water use database. The database is usually updated annually, but in some cases, it is updated less frequently, such as every two or three years or when the permits are renewed. Only a few states presently store the latitude and longitude of groundwater wells and surface water intakes. A larger number store the locations of wells and intakes as township-range-section values from the Public Land Survey System (PLSS; this is further discussed below). There is a trend toward storage of water use site locations using latitude-longitude coordinates checked by using global positioning system (GPS) equipment. In many states, water use data are collected and stored but are not checked and verified against independent information. Where checks are done, the most frequent is to compare the current year’s water use to the previous year’s water use at each water use site. Some states check reported water use against the water use permit amount. The most common tracking of water use data is to look at year-to-year differences. WATER REGISTERS AND PERMITS The first question on the survey—“Does your state have the legal authority to permit or register withdrawals?”—is important in defining the quality of the state water use data collection program. In a water use register system, a state

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Estimating Water Use in the United States: A New Paradigm for the National Water-Use Information Program does not issue permits for water use but does require users to report their water use amount, usually annually. In a water use permit system, a state requires permission to withdraw water from a stream or aquifer. Permits take two forms: (1) the site is permitted, but the total amount of the withdrawal is not specified, and (2) the site location and annual withdrawal amount are both specified in the water use permit. The significance of these distinctions was not apparent at the time the survey was undertaken, and in retrospect, it would have been better to clarify the type of register or permit system used by the state. The results of this state water use data collection survey are illuminating, and they document in which states comprehensive site-specific water use data collection programs exist. However, the survey also revealed that each state has a particular water use environment, pattern of state laws governing water use, and history of water use data collection and interpretation by the USGS and state agencies. The information presented in this report is only a brief summary of a complex situation that deserves to be more fully documented. At several meetings where the committee met USGS and state water use specialists, many publications were presented to the committee describing water use trends and interpretations for particular states or regions. TOWNSHIP-RANGE-SECTION COORDINATES A number of states have described their water use sites with a location specified by township-range-section values. These values are based on a grid system called the Public Land Survey System (PLSS), a method of locating parcels of land. The method, originally developed in 1785, involves subdividing what were then the “public lands” of the United States—i.e., the land outside the original 13 colonial states (Minnick and Parrish, 1994). The PLSS applies now in all states except for the original 13 states, Texas, and Hawaii. A rectangular grid of “townships” is laid out over each state using one or more specified meridians and parallels as baselines. The township (east-west) and range (north-south) values are the coordinates of a Township cell in this grid. Townships are divided into 36 smaller grid units called sections, then into quarter sections, and finally into quarter-quarter sections. Thus, if a water use site is identified by township-range-section, it is located somewhere within a particular cell in the PLSS grid. Though this system of labeling water use sites has the merit of providing at least some spatial location information, it is clear that labeling water use points by latitude and longitude is a preferable alternative that can be physically checked with a GPS unit. The water use site can then be more precisely located on a map than just within a grid cell in the PLSS. A particular shortcoming of the township-range-section system for a national water use database is that this system is not used in 15 states. Finally, it should be noted that methods of varying degrees of accuracy have been developed by individual states and the private sector to convert PLSS

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Estimating Water Use in the United States: A New Paradigm for the National Water-Use Information Program descriptions to decimal degrees (i.e., latitude-longitude). However, there are numerous sources of error in such datasets and programs, and many water use site descriptions do not give northing and easting within the section or quarter section. Such sites would have location accuracies on the order of ± 2,640 feet (section) and ± 1,320 feet (quarter section), which is not sufficient for many purposes. STATE WATER USE DATA COLLECTION CATEGORIES The responses from this survey reveal a patchwork quilt of data collection, ranging from states such as Delaware, Hawaii, Kansas, and New Jersey, which have databases that are as complete as that in Arkansas, to states where little or no water use information is collected by state institutions. It seemed useful to the committee to try to classify the responses from the survey into some form in which the states could be categorized as to their degree of water use data collection. It is apparent from the survey that the strongest data collection programs are usually found in those states where the state has the legal authority to register or permit water withdrawals. However, for its five-year water use data summaries, the USGS collects data in all states, so there is a minimum level of data collection everywhere. In some instances, such as the Illinois State Water Survey, a strong water use data collection program exists even though the state does not register or permit water withdrawals. The state water use data collection programs are classified into the following three categories: Category 1: The state has the legal authority to register or permit water withdrawals throughout the state for all water users from surface water or groundwater sources whose withdrawal rate exceeds a trigger level of 100,000 gallons per day. The state requires the collection of water use data, maintains a database of monthly water use updated annually for each withdrawal above its trigger level, and records water withdrawal locations using latitude and longitude coordinates. Some checking of data quality is carried out. These data are suitable for all water use reporting and for water availability studies. States within Category 1 are Arkansas, Delaware, Hawaii, Indiana, Kansas, Louisiana, New Jersey, New Hampshire, Vermont and Massachusetts. Category 2: Category 2 is the same as Category 1, but in Category 2, the data are recorded annually instead of monthly, and the withdrawal locations may be specified by township-range-section values rather than by latitude and longitude. These data are suitable for annual water use reporting but are less effective than date in Category 1 for water availability studies. States within Category 2 are Alabama, Illinois, Maryland, Minnesota, Mississippi, New Mexico, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Utah, and Virginia.

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Estimating Water Use in the United States: A New Paradigm for the National Water-Use Information Program Category 3: The state and/or the USGS collects and maintains water use data for some classes of users and/or some geographic areas within the state. States within Category 3 are Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Iowa, Kentucky, Maine, Michigan, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Puerto Rico, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin, and Wyoming. A map of state water use data collection programs classified into these categories is presented in Figure 2.5. There are 10 collection programs in Category 1, with some tendency for these programs to be located in the central and eastern states. Thus, the Arkansas water use data collection program described in Chapter 3 is not an isolated outlier in terms of state water use data collection programs. The 22 states with data collection programs in either Category 1 or 2 have systematic programs of water use data collection in which both the usage amount and the coordinates of the location of usage are recorded in a database for all significant water use categories. For the remaining 28 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico, water use data collection programs vary significantly. For example, Washington does not have a water use data collection program, Wyoming has a systematic program but not for all water use categories, and Pennsylvania has a systematic program but not for all areas of the state. It is worth noting that some of the most water-stressed states (e.g., California, Arizona, Nevada, and Colorado) fall into this category. FIGURE 2.5. Classification of state water use data collection programs. See text for explanation of categories.

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Estimating Water Use in the United States: A New Paradigm for the National Water-Use Information Program CONCLUSIONS AND RECOMMENDATIONS Most of the committee’s major conclusions and recommendations come later in the report. However, several conclusions and recommendations arise directly from the structure and limitations of the existing program: A national water use program is vital for effective water planning and management. High-quality water use information is critical to maintaining a comprehensive national water inventory, assuring the nation’s water supply, assessing the effects of global change on water use, and preserving water quality and protecting ecological resources. The USGS is probably the most appropriate place to carry out such a program. Water use may be studied using many methods, including some methods (e.g., econometric and materials flow) in which the USGS Water Resources Division has limited experience. However, on the balance, the USGS’s role as an unbiased provider of information, its expertise in resource assessment and hydrologic databases, and the important connection of water use data with the hydrologic cycle argue strongly in favor of keeping the program at the USGS. The overwhelming dependence of the NWUIP on the Coop Program funding (i.e., projects must attract 50 percent funding from local sources or they are not funded) is undesirable. Like the stream gaging program, which has both Coop and national funding, the NWUIP requires a component of federal funding that does not depend on the interest level of individual states. Whether done solely within the NWUIP or also through collaboration with other programs within the USGS, a stronger focus on water use science at the federal and regional levels is imperative. There are real disparities in the quality and quantity of water use data collected by the various states, and these disparities are likely to persist. Any national-scale program must find mechanisms to alert the user to these differences and to encourage states to collect the highest-quality data that are consistent with their needs and resources. Therefore, as part of the current five-year national water use estimation effort, a separate publication should be prepared documenting the condition of the water use data collection program in each state and cataloging the publications that have been prepared to summarize and interpret these water use data.