Which areas in the United States are most dependent on groundwater?

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Map of groundwater withdrawals by U.S. state in 2015. Image Credit: U.S. Geological Survey

Groundwater use is highest in parts of the country with limited rainfall but high water needs, especially for irrigation. Most of these areas are in the western half of the country, where annual rainfall is typically much lower than in the East and where surface water supplies cannot meet the demand for water.

In 2015, groundwater provided 29% of the total freshwater used in the United States. However, eight states and at least one territory depended on groundwater for at least 50% of their freshwater supply:1

Mississippi 84%
Kansas 71%
Arkansas 69%
California 67%
Hawaii 63%
Nebraska 59%
Florida 63%
Nebraska 61%
South Dakota 60%
Oklahoma 53%
U.S. Virgin Islands 50%

The states that use the largest total volumes of groundwater tend to have large populations and/or extensive farmland in arid areas. In 2015, just five states accounted for 54% of national groundwater use, mostly for irrigation:1

California 21%  (80% for irrigation)
Arkansas 11%  (97% for irrigation)
Texas 9%  (62% for irrigation)
Nebraska   7%  (93% for irrigation)
Idaho   6%  (92% for irrigation)


1 Estimated Use of Water in the United States in 2015 U.S. Geological Survey

Learn More:

  • Ground-Water Availability in the United States (Report), U.S. Geological Survey
    2008 report assessing national availability of groundwater. Written for a wide audience of people interested in management, protection, and sustainable use of U.S. water resources
  • Ground Water Atlas of the United States (Book/Website), U.S. Geological Survey
    2000 atlas showing and describing the principal aquifers across the United States, including hydrologic and geologic information
  • Managed Aquifer Recharge (Factsheet), American Geosciences Institute
    Introduction to managed aquifer recharge, including how it works and its effects on water quality and availability
  • Desalination as a Source of Fresh Water (Webinar), American Geosciences Institute
    Webinar on the use and desalination of salty water, including brackish groundwater, in the United States and further afield.