Municipal drinking water consumption in the United States has declined by 5% this decade, marking the first time in nearly 40 years that water use at home has decreased. Total freshwater withdrawals this decade continue to decline in almost every sector including agriculture, industrial, domestic, and thermoelectric. This is primarily due to increased efficiencies and the reduction in withdrawals for retired coal-fired power plants.
Drinking water needed for public supply in the United States has been relatively flat since 1985 even as the population has increased by approximately 70 million people over the same period. Water conservation efforts, including through water efficient fixtures, have had a significant impact in reducing per capita water usage. Importantly, while per capita demand has fallen, population trends have significantly challenged how cities manage water. For example, the Government Accountability Office estimates that 99 of 674 midsized cities in the U.S. are shrinking. This poses significant challenges to utility managers; fewer rate payers and a declining tax base make it difficult to raise funds for capital infrastructure plans. To respond, utilities must raise rates, often in cities where jobs and pay have not kept pace with the economy, putting a burden on those who can least afford rate increases. Conversely, in areas of the country that are growing, such as the West and Southwest, water managers must respond to increased overall demand.Back to Drinking Water