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Valuing Ground Water: Economic Concepts and Approaches
TABLE 1.1 Withdrawals of Water, by Type and Category of Use, 1990
Million gals. per day
Ground or Surface
Ground water, total
Surface water, total
SOURCE: Compiled from Solley et al., 1993. Because of rounding, individual items may not add precisely to totals.
exceeding U.S. population growth in that period. Since 1975 water use has remained essentially flat. The U. S. Geological Survey (USGS) singles out three factors to account for that level trend. First, higher energy prices and declines in farm commodity prices in the 1980s reduced the demand for irrigation water and spurred the introduction of more efficient pumping technologies. In addition, pollution control regulations encouraged recycling and reduced discharge of pollutants, thereby decreasing water requirements in the industrial sector. And more generally, the public became increasingly concerned about conservation (Solley et al., 1993). No doubt the slowdown in development of new hydroelectric capacity in the United States contributed as well. However, the USGS does not identify water pricing as a factor in the deceleration of water use, though higher energy prices would have constituted an indirect disincentive to consumption.
Ground water is the predominant source of water supply for rural areas in the United States, primarily for agriculture and domestic use. In 1985 ground water provided drinking water for more than half the U.S. population and 97% of the rural population (Moody, 1990). As Table 1.1 indicates, agriculture (irrigation