Consumptive Water Use: Refining State Water Supply Estimates with Discharge and Withdrawal Data

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Virginia Tech

Water scarcity has quickly become one of the most pressing issues in the 21st century. Knowledge of the stress consumption places on water supply is therefore necessary for improved resource management. This research leverages monthly facility level withdrawal and discharge data from two different sources to provide important observations of consumptive water use across several spatial scales and water use sectors in Virginia between 2010-2016. Consumptive water is defined as water which is withdrawn and not returned to a water resource system. Consumption was estimated on statewide, watershed, county, and facility levels. The agriculture/irrigation, aquaculture, commercial, industrial, energy, and municipal sectors were considered for analysis. Facilities were matched between the two data sources by narrowing potential matches by distance and then by facility name using an approximate string distance mechanism. This analysis revealed that inconsistent discharge reporting affects estimates of consumption through time and any errors at finer spatial scales are ultimately masked at coarser levels. Statewide energy consumption in Virginia was found to be between 4-20% considering all available data and 0.4-4% across matched facilities. Non-energy consumption was an estimated 37-51% considering all available data and only 28-33% across matched facilities. Inconsistent reporting of discharge made it difficult to determine if consumption trends truly exist in Virginia, but monthly consumption appears to be persistent through time and slightly increasing in non-energy sectors. Industrial consumption in Virginia was also found to be higher than literature values. Results from this study are beneficial for water supply modeling and planning by providing more refined estimates of the actual stress withdrawals place on water supply.

Consumption, Water Use, Water Supply, Withdrawal, Discharge