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Contact(s): Bob Smail, DNR water supply specialist, 608-267-4581,; Jennifer Sereno, communications, 608-770-8084,
December 1, 2015

MADISON - Wisconsin's use of surface and groundwater declined 7.8 percent in 2014 from the prior year, marking the second year in a row that municipal systems, industrial users and farms reduced water withdrawals.

The details are featured in the 2014 Wisconsin Water Use Withdrawal summary [PDF], a report that highlights the ways in which Wisconsin's waters contribute to the state's quality of life while powering the economy. The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources prepares the report as part of its role to monitor and protect the state's groundwater and surface water resources.

Electric power generation accounts for about 75 percent of the state's overall water use as utilities around the state withdraw water to cool power generating equipment, said Bob Smail, DNR water supply specialist. During 2014, a relatively cool summer and high precipitation led to decreased withdrawals for most uses compared to 2013.

Groundwater supplies about 12 percent of Wisconsin's water for all uses and in 2014 withdrawals for agricultural irrigation decreased 24 percent from groundwater sources, Smail said.

"The cooler, wetter weather reduced the need for irrigation last year," Smail said. "Another highlight was the overall 3 percent decline in municipal water use as customers continue to install efficient plumbing fixtures and appliances. Decreases at the municipal level might have been even greater if it weren't for a harsh winter, which led to significant losses due to broken pipes and frozen pipe prevention efforts."

The nearly 8 percent overall decrease in water withdrawals in 2014 follows a 6 percent decrease in 2013.

For 2014, water withdrawals from all surface and groundwater sources totaled 1.95 trillion gallons, down from 2.12 trillion gallons in 2013. The latest numbers continued a decrease following a recent peak withdrawal of 2.25 trillion gallons in 2012.

"Our water resources are critical to our health, environment and economy," Smail said. "Tracking water use by utilities, municipalities, agricultural users and industry helps inform our management decisions to ensure protection of this vital resource."

To learn more about water use in Wisconsin, visit and search "water use."

Last Revised: Tuesday, December 01, 2015

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