Buildings Demography Environment GIS Information Policy Technology Transportation More subjects
Note: The Office of Geographic and Demographic Analysis is no longer a division of the Dept. of Administration. The work units which made up this division can be found on the left menu of this page. Resources found on the GDA website are being migrated to other domains.
Logo

Indicator 5 9 : Water use

Goal: Minnesotans will conserve natural resources to give future generations a healthy environment and a strong economy. Continued prosperity and community well-being depend on conserving and maintaining the natural systems that are the base for economic activity.

Rationale: A clean and abundant water supply is essential to economic and human health. Nearly every commercial and biological process requires it; the human body is roughly two-thirds water. The use, quality and availability of water are important indicators of future economic and environmental conditions.

Gallons of water used per day, in millions

Year
19862,348
19872,748
19883,027
19892,992
19902,981
19912,989
19923,104
19933,030
19943,241
19953,277
19963,238
19973,186
19983,510
19993,597
20003,669
graph

Data source: Minnesota Department of Natural Resources

Gallons of water used per person per day

Year
1986558.4
1987648.9
1988704.6
1989689.7
1990679.5
1991675.1
1992694.2
1993670.1
1994709.8
1995711.5
1996696.7
1997679.6
1998742.6
1999753.2
2000745.8
graph

Data source: Minnesota Department of Natural Resources

About this indicator: Minnesota uses significantly more water today than in the mid-1980s, both in total quantity (56 percent more) and in quantity per person (34 percent more).

Total gallons of water used each day (including power generation, residential and other public supply, industrial processing and irrigation) increased from 2,348 million gallons in 1986 to 3,669 million gallons in 2000. Roughly two-thirds of this amount is used for power generation, but much of that water is then discharged and available for other uses.

The number of gallons used each day per person increased 34 percent between 1986 and 2000, from 558 gallons per person to 746 gallons per person.

Most of the state has plentiful water supplies, but water scarcity is a potentially limiting factor for water-intensive activities in parts of western and southwestern Minnesota. Using too much water from a limited supply can cause lakes, rivers or wells to dry up. Water shortages caused by drought or unplanned increases in water use could lead not only to economic disruptions and environmental decline, but also to a higher cost of government. New water and wastewater infrastructure can be expensive to build and maintain.

For comparison: Meaningful comparisons are difficult because of different methods for tracking water use. Total freshwater use per day in the United States stayed roughly stable between 1990 and 1995 at an estimated 341 billion gallons. Minnesota's daily water use during the same time period grew 5 percent.

Things to think about: Water is a finite resource. In some places groundwater is withdrawn faster than it can replenish itself. Sixty-eight percent of Minnesota's public water supply comes from groundwater sources, compared to 39 percent nationally. Irrigation, while representing a relatively small portion of Minnesota's overall water use, is the second-largest user of groundwater and increased 140 percent between 1986 and 1999. Insufficient information about the state's complex ground water systems makes it difficult to predict the long-term effects of the state's increasing reliance on groundwater.

Sources:

  • Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, Water Year Data Summary, 1999 and 2000, www.dnr.state.mn.us/waters
  • United States Geological Survey, www.usgs.gov

Related data trends:

Technical problems? Contact: demography.helpline@state.mn.us