Evaluation of U.S. Manufacturing Subsectors at Risk of Physical Water Shortages

Prakash Rao, Darren Sholes, and Joe Cresko (2019). “Evaluation of U.S. Manufacturing Subsectors at Risk of Physical Water Shortages.” Environmental Science & Technology 53 (5), 2295-2303 DOI: 10.1021/acs.est.8b04896

Abstract: The potential impact of water shortages on U.S. manufacturing is unknown. While water for manufacturing constitutes an estimated 6% of U.S. water intake, the data (i.e., location, quantity, and purpose of water intake) needed to determine this impact does not exist.

This paper will identify manufacturing subsectors at risk of physical water shortages by applying a method for estimating U.S. manufacturing water intake at the necessary spatial and sectoral resolutions. First, the data requirements to quantify a manufacturing facility’s water footprint within the context of the watershed are developed. Second, using international data, water intake at the national, state, and county-levels by each U.S. manufacturing subsector is estimated. Third, manufacturing subsectors that are most vulnerable to risks of physical water shortages are identified.

Based on the results, the Paper, Primary Metals, Chemical, Petroleum and Coal Products, and Food subsectors have the largest intake, respectively. However, the Primary Metals, Fabricated Metals, Transportation Equipment, Petroleum and Coal Products, and Plastics and Rubber subsectors are at the greatest risk of physical water shortages based on concentrations of water intake in water-stressed regions. The results can be used to develop strategies to mitigate the risks of water shortages on the U.S. manufacturing sector.

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