Water Profile

Minnesota, Michigan and Wisconsin

Published April 1, 1992  | April 1992 issue


  • Per capita water usage: 1,400 gallons per day.
  • Wisconsin withdraws 6.7 billion gallons of water each day, making it the 19th largest water user among the 50 states. The bulk of that water, 81 percent, goes toward production of thermoelectric power, industry and mining uses 9 percent, agriculture 3 percent.
  • Wisconsin has 14,947 mapped lakes, 33,000 miles of rivers and streams and an abundant supply of ground water—1.2 quadrillion gallons, an amount equal to one-third the amount of water in Lake Superior.
  • The state's water resources are renewed continuously by precipitation (about 31 inches per year).
  • Major surface water issues include the continued preservation of the abundance and high quality of the water in light of competing needs of water users. Also, acid rain is a potential threat to Wisconsin lakes; 967 of the clearwater lakes are extremely sensitive to damage by acid rain.

Source: National Water Summary (Series, 1983-88), U.S. Geological Survey.


  • Per capita usage: 1,270 gallons per day.
  • Michigan withdraws 11.4 billion gallons of water each day, ranking it number eight in the country. Most of this water, 74 percent, is used in the production of thermoelectric power; just 2 percent of the state's withdrawn water is used for agriculture.
  • Known as a "Water Wonderland," Michigan has 3,251 miles of Great Lakes shoreline, 36,350 miles of inland rivers and streams, and more than 35,000 mapped lakes and ponds, including 4,300 in the Upper Peninsula.
  • In the Upper Peninsula (U.P.), ground water is used extensively in the west, but many domestic and municipal wells dry up during periods of drought. The Great Lakes could provide water to all communities in the western U.P., but transportation costs are prohibitive.
  • The Escanaba River Basin in the central U.P. covers an area of 925 square miles, including more than 275 lakes. The basin has considerable recreational potential; currently, principal users are iron ore processing facilities and papermaking facilities.

Source: National Water Summary (Series, 1983-88), U.S. Geological Survey.


  • Per capita usage: 676 gallons per day.
  • Minnesota withdraws 2.8 billion gallons of water each day, ranking it number 35 among all states. Production of thermoelectric power accounts for 52 percent of the state's withdrawals, industrial and mining accounts for 18 percent and agriculture 10 percent.
  • The "Land of 10,000 Lakes" is actually a state with 15,291 inventoried lakes and 90,000 miles of rivers and streams. About 5.7 percent of the state is covered with water.
  • Although renowned for its surface water, 94 percent of the public- supply water systems and 75 percent of all Minnesotans depend on ground water for domestic consumption.
  • In some parts of the state, ground water withdrawals for irrigation are competing for available supplies with neighboring domestic users (over 80 percent of irrigation water is withdrawn from ground water sources). This is especially a concern in western Minnesota.

Source: National Water Summary (Series, 1983-88), U.S. Geological Survey.