High-Resolution Water Footprints of Production of the United States

Landon Marston, Yufei Ao, Megan Konar, Mesfin M. Mekonnen, Arjen Y. Hoekstra

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The United States is the largest producer of goods and services in the world. Rainfall, surface water supplies, and groundwater aquifers represent a fundamental input to economic production. Despite the importance of water resources to economic activity, we do not have consistent information on water use for specific locations and economic sectors. A national, spatially detailed database of water use by sector would provide insight into U.S. utilization and dependence on water resources for economic production. To this end, we calculate the water footprint of over 500 food, energy, mining, services, and manufacturing industries and goods produced in the United States. To do this, we employ a data intensive approach that integrates water footprint and input-output techniques into a novel methodological framework. This approach enables us to present the most detailed and comprehensive water footprint analysis of any country to date. This study broadly contributes to our understanding of water in the U.S. economy, enables supply chain managers to assess direct and indirect water dependencies, and provides opportunities to reduce water use through benchmarking. In fact, we find that 94% of U.S. industries could reduce their total water footprint more by sourcing from more water-efficient suppliers in their supply chain than they could by converting their own operations to be more water-efficient.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2288-2316
Number of pages29
JournalWater Resources Research
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 2018


  • United States
  • industrial water use
  • water benchmarking
  • water footprint
  • water-energy nexus
  • water-food nexus

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Water Science and Technology


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