A Spatially Detailed and Economically Complete Blue Water Footprint of the United States

Richard R. Rushforth, Benjamin L. Ruddell
2017 Hydrology and Earth System Sciences Discussions  
This paper quantifies and maps a spatially detailed and economically complete blue water footprint for the United States, utilizing the National Water Economy Database version 1.1 (NWED). NWED utilizes multiple mesoscale federal data resources from the United States Geological Survey (USGS), the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT), the U.S. Department of Energy (USDOE), and the U.S.
more » ... of Labor Statistics (BLS) to quantify water use, economic trade, and commodity flows to construct this water footprint. Results corroborate previous studies in both the magnitude of the U.S. water footprint (<i>F</i>) and in the observed pattern of virtual water flows. The median water footprint (<i>F</i><sub>CUMed</sub>) of the U.S. is 181&amp;thinsp;966&amp;thinsp;Mm<sup>3</sup> (<i>F</i><sub>Withdrawal</sub>: 400&amp;thinsp;844&amp;thinsp;Mm<sup>3</sup>; <i>F</i><sub>CUMax</sub>: 222&amp;thinsp;144&amp;thinsp;Mm<sup>3</sup>; <i>F</i><sub>CUMin</sub>: 61&amp;thinsp;117&amp;thinsp;Mm<sup>3</sup>) and the median per capita water footprint (<i>F'</i><sub>CUMed</sub>) of the U.S. is 589&amp;thinsp;m<sup>3</sup>&amp;thinsp;capita<sup>&amp;minus;1</sup> (<i>F'</i><sub>Withdrawal</sub>: 1298&amp;thinsp;m<sup>3</sup>&amp;thinsp;capita<sup>&amp;minus;1</sup>; <i>F'</i><sub>CUMax</sub>: 720&amp;thinsp;m<sup>3</sup>&amp;thinsp;capita<sup>&amp;minus;1</sup>; <i>F'</i><sub>CUMin</sub>: 198&amp;thinsp;m<sup>3</sup>&amp;thinsp;capita<sup>&amp;minus;1</sup>). The U.S. hydro-economic network is centered on cities and is dominated by the local and regional scales. Approximately (58&amp;thinsp;%) of U.S. water consumption is for the direct and indirect use by cities. Further, the water footprint of agriculture and livestock is 93&amp;thinsp;% of the total U.S. water footprint, and is dominated by irrigated agriculture in the Western U.S. The water footprint of the industrial, domestic, and power economic sectors is centered on population centers, while the water footprint of the mining sector is highly dependent on the location of mineral resources. Owing to uncertainty in consumptive use coefficients alone, the mesoscale blue water footprint uncertainty ranges from 63&amp;thinsp;% to over 99&amp;thinsp;% depending on location. Harmonized region-specific, economic sector-specific consumption coefficients are necessary to reduce water footprint uncertainties and to better understand the human economy's water use impact on the hydrosphere.
doi:10.5194/hess-2017-650 fatcat:5wwdz733rvhxnf4kv4rkggvi6a