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Power Generation Uses 7 Out of Every 10 Gallons of Water in Missouri


MO By Use 2005 ChartIn the U.S., more water is consumed for power generation than any other use. Irrigation is second. Water consumption has grown slowly between 1985 and 2005. The details are in my three previous posts.

What about Missouri?

Compared to its population and land area, Missouri is the 18th most intensive water consuming state. Missouri consumed 8,709 million gallons per day in 2005, or 1,518 million gallons per day per person.

The first chart at right shows what all that water was used for. About 70% of it was used for power generation, about 16% of it for irrigation, and about 9% of it for public supply.

MO Top 10 Counties ChartThe variation in water consumption between counties is astounding. Franklin County, the largest consumer, used 3,398 times as much water as Webster County, the smallest. The 10 largest consuming counties consumed 76% of Missouri water, but hold only 43% of the population.

The second chart at right shows them and color codes them by region. The largest nine of them just happen to be the counties in which the nine largest coal burning power plants in Missouri are located. The tenth, Butler County, has a power plant, but it is not one of the bigger ones in the state. Butler County, however, is one of the state’s largest consumers of water for irrigation.

MO Water Use 1985-2005The third chart at right show Missouri water consumption in 1985, 1990, 1995, 2000, and 2005. It has grown 43%, despite the fact that the population has grown only 16%. Over the same time period, national water consumption grew 3%.

The data supplied by the United States Geological Survey is not always complete, and collection methods may vary from year to year. Thus, comparisons may not be perfectly reliable. However, Missouri water consumption comes primarily from electricity generation, and electricity consumption has been growing. Thus, it may be that the growth in Missouri’s water consumption comes from our growing consumption of electricity.


For water consumption, the following reports were used to create the charts. They are all available on the United States Geological Service website at Water Use in the United States, http://water.usgs.gov/watuse.

  1. Estimated Use of Water in the United States in 2005.
  2. Download 2000 Data For Counties.
  3. Download 1995 Data for Counties and Watersheds.
  4. Download 1990 or 1985 Data for Counties and Watersheds.
  5. Table 2A. Total Water Withdrawals by Water-Use Category, 2005. In Estimated Use of Water in the United States in 2005, USGS Circular 1344, United States Geological Survey, http://pubs.usgs.gov/circ/1344.

For population, the following sources were used:

Table1. Annual Estimates of the Resident Population for Counties of Missouri: April 1, 2000 to July 1, 2009, U.S. Census Bureau, Population Division, http://www.census.gov/popest/data/counties/totals/2009/CO-EST2009-01.html.

Estimated Missouri Population, 1960-1990, U.S. Census Bureau, Historical Data, http://www.census.gov/popest/data/historical/index.html.

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