Water Use Drops to Lowest Level in 45 Years

November 10, 2014 Updated: November 10, 2014

For the first time in more than four decades, water use in the United States was at the lowest level ever recorded, despite a steadily growing population. The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), the world’s largest provider of water data and the leading water research agency in the federal government, released its findings late last week.

The basis of the report was data collected and analyzed from 1970 to 2010, during which water use in the United States went down by about 355 billion gallons of water per day.

“Reaching this 45-year low shows the positive trends in conservation that stem from improvements in water-use technologies and management,” stated Mike Connor, deputy secretary of the interior, in a release about the data. “Even as the U.S. population continues to grow, people are learning to be more water conscious and do their part to help sustain the limited freshwater resources in the country.”

In 1970, the country’s population was 203.2 million. By 2010 it had gone up to 308.7 million, according to the U.S. Census.

The USGS said that much of the decrease in water use can be attributed to a 20 percent decline in the use of thermoelectric power. Less use of water for irrigation and public supply were also contributing factors. It’s the first time that a drop in the public supply of water has ever been recorded.

Even California, the largest user of water due to population and irrigation needs, decreased its water use between 2005 and 2010. Other states also learned to use less water for irrigation, using tactics that included higher-efficiency irrigation systems.

California has decreasing water use. The state now faces one of the worst droughts in its history.