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The Southern Appalachians have historically received abundant quantities of rainfall, surface water, and groundwater that contribute to the headwaters of regional river basins. These river basins provide water to both local residents and downstream southeastern cities.
This discussion addresses water use and supply throughout the region. For information regarding regional watershed systems and streamflow dynamics, please see the discussions found on the Natural Environment | Land and Water | Watersheds and Natural Environment | Land and Water | Surface Water pages. Understanding streamflow dynamics, watershed systems, and their relation to terrain characteristics is essential for describing and planning water supply, water use, and related land use activities.
Data provided by the U.S. Geological Survey's 2010 water use study are the nation's repository of such water resources information. These data are used by government and non-governmental organizations to estimate future conditions and to assess risks such as flooding and drought. Planners and engineers use the data for designing systems for water supply, flood control, environmental protection, and recreation.
A wide distribution of water usage exists throughout the region. The average total fresh water withdrawal per day in 2010 was 66.5 million gallons, with over 96 percent coming from surface water sources and the remainder coming from groundwater from largely private homeowner wells. How this water is being used is a factor of the demographics, the available natural resources, and the economic characteristics of each county.
The acres of land irrigated for agriculture or recreation (such as golf courses, for example) range from no acres irrigated to 5.3 thousand, with a total of over 135 thousand acres irrigated. This accounts for nearly .36 percent of the total land area in the region.