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8.6: Glossary of Water Use Terms

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    15677
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    acre-foot (acre-ft)

    the volume of water required to cover 1 acre of land (43,560 square feet) to a depth of 1 foot.

    animal specialties

    water use associated with the production of fish in captivity except fish hatcheries, fur-bearing animals in captivity, horses, rabbits, and pets.

    aquifer

    a geologic formation, group of formations, or part of a formation that contains sufficient saturated permeable material to yield significant quantities of water to wells and springs.

    commercial water use

    water for motels, hotels, restaurants, office buildings, other commercial facilities, and institutions. The water may be obtained from a public supply or may be self-supplied.

    consumptive use

    that part of water withdrawn that is evaporated, transpired, incorporated into products or crops, consumed by humans or livestock, or otherwise removed from the immediate water environment. Also referred to as water consumed.

    conveyance loss

    water that is lost in transit from a pipe, canal, conduit, or ditch by leakage or evaporation. Generally, the water is not available for further use; however, leakage from an irrigation ditch, for example, may percolate to a ground-water source and be available for further use.

    cooling water

    water used for cooling purposes, such as of condensers and nuclear reactors.

    delivery/release

    the amount of water delivered to the point of use and the amount released after use; the difference between these amounts is usually the same as the consumptive use.

    domestic water use

    water for household purposes, such as drinking, food preparation, bathing, washing clothes and dishes, flushing toilets, and watering lawns and gardens. Also called residential water use. The water may be obtained from a public supply or may be self supplied.

    evaporation

    process by which water is changed from a liquid into a vapor.

    evapotranspiration

    a collective term that includes water discharged to the atmosphere as a result of evaporation from the soil and surface-water bodies and as a result of plant transpiration.

    freshwater

    water that contains less than 1,000 milligrams per liter (mg/L) of dissolved solids; generally, more than 500 mg/L of dissolved solids is undesirable for drinking and many industrial uses.

    ground water

    generally all subsurface water as distinct from surface water; specifically, that part of the subsurface water in the saturated zone (a zone in which all voids are filled with water) where the water is under pressure greater than atmospheric.

    hydroelectric power water use

    the use of water in the generation of electricity at plants where the turbine generators are driven by falling water.

    industrial water use

    water used for industrial purposes such as fabrication, processing, washing, and cooling, and includes such industries as steel, chemical and allied products, paper and allied products, mining, and petroleum refining. The water may be obtained from a public supply or may be self supplied.

    instream use

    water that is used, but not withdrawn, from a ground- or surface-water source for such purposes as hydroelectric power generation, navigation, water-quality improvement, fish propagation, and recreation. Sometimes called nonwithdrawal use or in-channel use.

    irrigation district

    a cooperative, self-governing public corporation set up as a subdivision of the state government, with definite geographic boundaries, organized and having taxing power to obtain and distribute water for irrigation of lands within the district; created under the authority of a state legislature with the consent of a designated fraction of the landowners or citizens.

    irrigation water use

    artificial application of water on lands to assist in the growing of crops and pastures or to maintain vegetative growth in recreational lands such as parks and golf courses.

    livestock water use

    water for livestock watering, feed lots, dairy operations, fish farming, and other on-farm needs. Livestock as used here includes cattle, sheep, goats, hogs, and poultry. Also included are animal specialties.

    million gallons per day (Mgal/d)

    a rate of flow of water.

    mining water use

    water use for the extraction of minerals occurring naturally including solids, such as coal and ores; liquids, such as crude petroleum; and gases, such as natural gas. Also includes uses associated with quarrying, well operations (dewatering), milling (crushing, screening, washing, floatation, and so forth), and other preparations customarily done at the mine site or as part of a mining activity. Does not include water used in processing, such as smelting, refining petroleum, or slurry pipeline operations. These uses are included in industrial water use.

    offstream use

    water withdrawn or diverted from a ground- or surface-water source for public-water supply, industry, irrigation, livestock, thermoelectric power generation, and other uses. Sometimes called off-channel use or withdrawal.

    per capita use

    the average amount of water used per person during a standard time period, generally per day.

    public supply

    water withdrawn by public and private water suppliers and delivered to users. Public suppliers provide water for a variety of uses, such as domestic, commercial, thermoelectric power, industrial, and public water use.

    public-supply deliveries

    water provided to users through a public-supply distribution system.

    public water use

    water supplied from a public-water supply and used for such purposes as firefighting, street washing, and municipal parks and swimming pool.

    reclaimed wastewater

    wastewater treatment plant effluent that has been diverted for beneficial use before it reaches a natural waterway or aquifer.

    recycled water

    water that is used more than one time before it passes back into the natural hydrologic system.

    return flow

    the water that reaches a ground- or surface-water source after release from the point of use and thus becomes available for further use.

    reuse

    see recycled water.

    saline water

    water that contains more than 1,000 milligrams per liter of dissolved solids.

    self-supplied water

    water withdrawn from a surface- or ground-water source by a user rather than being obtained from a public supply.

    surface water

    an open body of water, such as a stream or a lake.

    thermoelectric power water use

    water used in the process of the generation of thermoelectric power. The water may be obtained from a public supply or may be self-supplied.

    transpiration

    process by which water that is absorbed by plants, usually through the roots, is evaporated into the atmosphere from the plant surface.

    wastewater

    water that carries wastes from homes, businesses, and industries.

    wastewater treatment

    the processing of wastewater for the removal or reduction of contained solids or other undesirable constituents.

    wastewater-treatment return flow

    water returned to the hydrologic system by wastewater-treatment facilities.

    water-resources region

    designated natural drainage basin or hydrologic area that contains either the drainage area of a major river or the combined drainage areas of two or more rivers; of 21 regions, 18 are in the conterminous United States, and one each are in Alaska, Hawaii, and the Caribbean. (See map on inside of front cover.)

    water-resources subregion

    the 21 designated water-resources regions of the United States are subdivided into 222 subregions. Each subregion includes that area drained by a river system, a reach of a river and its tributaries in that reach, a closed basin(s), or a group of streams forming a coastal drainage system.

    water transfer

    artificial conveyance of water from one area to another.

    water use

    1. In a restrictive sense, the term refers to water that is actually used for a specific purpose, such as for domestic use, irrigation, or industrial processing.
    2. More broadly, water use pertains to humans’ interaction with and influence on the hydrologic cycle, and includes elements such as water withdrawal, delivery, consumptive use, wastewater release, reclaimed wastewater, return flow, and instream use.

    withdrawal

    water removed from the ground or diverted from a surface-water source for use.


    8.6: Glossary of Water Use Terms is shared under a CC BY-NC-SA 4.0 license and was authored, remixed, and/or curated by Marcellus Matters via source content that was edited to conform to the style and standards of the LibreTexts platform; a detailed edit history is available upon request.