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An irrigation system.



Water use in Georgia in 2005 home page. Water-use home

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Water-Use Trends, 1980—2005 in Georgia

Since 1980, the Georgia Water-Use Program (GWUP) has compiled and published statewide water-use estimates by category at 5-year intervals. National water-use compilations began in 1950. However, during the period 1950—2005, water-use estimates were not always comparable. Category definition and estimation techniques have been the most consistent since 1980 because of efforts of the National Water-Use Information Program (NWUIP). In Georgia, total estimated water use for 1980 was 6,725 Mgal/d (Pierce and others, 1982). By 1990, total estimated water use had declined about 31 percent to 5,353 Mgal/d. Statewide water use increased in 1995 and 2000 to reach 6,487 Mgal/d. In 2005, estimated water use was 5,471 Mgal/d, a decrease of 1,015 Mgal/d (about 19 percent) since 2000.

Bar chart showing population, groundwater, surface-water, and total water-use trends in Georgia, 1960 to 2005.

Statewide public-supply water use steadily increased from 1980 to 2000, corresponding to an increase in population (from 4,189,000 to 8,186,450) during the same period; however, water use slightly decreased from 2000 to 2005 (fig. 7). Commercial, domestic, and livestock uses remained about the same for the period 1980—2005. Industrial water use fluctuated during the period 1980—2005, mostly because of improved water efficiency, water recycling, and conservation measures at industrial plants and changes in the number and type of industrial facilities. Major decreases in industrial water use in Glynn and Camden Counties were likely caused by chemical and paper plant closings and more efficient water-use practices at the remaining plants.

Trends in population, groundwater, and surface-water withdrawals in Georgia, 1960-2005.
Withdrawals are in million gallons per day and are rounded.
GroundwaterSurface waterTotal

Irrigation water use declined from 1980 to 1985 and again to 1990, increased from 1995 to 2000, and decreased markedly from 2000 to 2005. Estimated irrigation withdrawal was 30 percent lower in 2005 than in 2000 because of decreased irrigation demands resulting from the greater amount of rainfall in 2005, which relieved the prolonged drought that began in 1998 and continued through 2002 (Georgia Department of Natural Resources, 2000). The total number of acres irrigated in the State increased by nearly 32 percent between 1995 and 2005.

Bar chart showing groundwater, surface-water, and total water-use trends, by category of use, in Georgia, 1980 to 2005.

Thermoelectric-power water continues to be the largest of any offstream category in Georgia. Thermoelectric-power withdrawal peaked in 1980, dropped sharply in 1985, and declined again in 1990 before increasing in 1995 and 2000. This rising trend was reversed in 2005 when thermoelectric power decreased by 24 percent from 2000 because of the decommissioning of three power plants and retrofitting cooling towers at several other plants.

Instream hydroelectric-power generation requires the use of significant amounts of water. From 1980 to 1995, hydroelectric-power water use was increasing. However, because hydroelectric-power water use is dependent on the availability of surface-water flow, low-flow conditions related to drought in 1995 and 2000 resulted in a 19,000 Mgal/d decrease in usage. In 2005, water used for hydroelectric- power generation rose significantly to 54,096 Mgal/d, an increase of 22,206 Mgal/d (59 percent) from 2000, because of the increased surface-water flow.

The GWUP has been compiling and disseminating water-use information on water users in the State for more than 25 years. While these data have been useful to managers making policy decisions for the water resources in Georgia, continued monitoring of water-use information is necessary. The GWUP is working to develop a site-specific database of reported information to improve data aggregation techniques, provide better quality assurance, and improve trend data. An Internet-based system capable of online interactive updating and reporting of water withdrawal by permitted user would allow for more timely data collection and data accuracy. Additionally, the site-specific database could be improved further to be aligned with other databases and could incorporate metered irrigation data. Also, data on public supply and industrial discharges in the State could be added. Other considerations, such as the reduction in permit limits from 100,000 gal/d to 10,000 gal/d, which has been adopted in some adjoining States, would improve the available data for smaller industrial and mining users and some small public suppliers.

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