The latest USGS “Estimated Use of Water in the US” is out. It says we’re using less water. From 2005-10, a 13 percent drop. “Peak water” happened back in 1980:
There are lots of caveats. This analysis uses “withdrawals” rather than “consumptive use”. So if a power plant sucks up river water for cooling, that counts as “use” even if most of it is returned to the river. Farmers withdraw a lot, and return some via groundwater seepage and drains. The withdrawal-consumption distinction is really important for water policy, as I tried to explain here.
This big drop also spans the Economic Shitstorm of 2008. Part of the drop could be related to that.
I think a lot of work needs to be done by people smarter than I to sort out the implications of the above two caveats. But those notwithstanding, I think the new data supports the hypothesis (“slogan”?) I’ve been pushing recently: When one has less water, one uses less water. We’re pretty adaptable, we humans.