Randy ShumwayWater serves as not only a literal lifeline for humans, animals, and plants, but also as a functional lifeline for Idaho’s businesses, industries, and aquaculture.

Water economically and physically hydrates the state’s agriculture, mining, and power generation. Looking at how Idaho’s largest industries tap into water resources shows what a critical role water plays within the state’s economy.

More than 50 percent of total water withdrawals in the United States in 2010 were accounted for by 12 states, including Idaho. According to the 2010 U.S. Geological Survey, Idaho withdraws an average of 17.2 billion gallons of water per day from both groundwater and surface water sources.

While Idaho’s domestic per capita water use is approximately 168 gallons of water per day, industries are the major consumers of water. The top source of water withdrawal was, unsurprisingly, irrigation at 14 billion gallons of water per day. An additional 47.5 million gallons of water per day on average were withdrawn for livestock. As the third-ranking national producer of milk and one of the largest producers of potatoes, chickpeas, wheat, and barley in the United States, Idaho relies on water to feed its agricultural economy and the nation’s food supply.

Aquaculture is the second-largest categorical water user in the state. As the process of raising organisms that live in water for food, restoration, conservation, or sport, aquaculture includes controlled feeding, sanitation, and harvesting procedures and occurs primarily in ponds and flow-through raceways. While aquaculture water withdrawals account for a significantly smaller portion (16 percent) than those for irrigation and livestock (82 percent), Idaho withdraws more water for aquaculture than any other state in the nation. In 2010, Idaho withdrew approximately 2,750 million gallons of water per day for aquaculture, accounting for 29 percent of total U.S. aquaculture water withdrawals.

In addition to irrigation, livestock, and aquaculture, Idaho withdraws groundwater and surface water for public supply, mining, and thermoelectric power. Mining relies on water to extract ore, and thermoelectric power generation requires water to cool its equipment. All of these are key contributors to Idaho’s economy. Mining alone accounts for 1.8 percent of Idaho’s gross domestic product and contributes $134 million in state and local taxes.

By sustaining industries that provide jobs, goods, and services to the state and national economies, water drives much more of Idaho’s economy than we can see on the surface.

Economic Indicators

Housing Market. In November, the CoreLogic® Home Price Index (HPI) for Idaho, which measures home price appreciation, experienced a year over year increase of 8.5%.  Nationally, the HPI increased 6.3% during the same period.

Idaho Job Report. Idaho’s unemployment rate decreased 0.1 point to 3.9% in November, and the national unemployment rate remained flat at 5.0% in November.

Inflation. The U.S. Consumer Price Index decreased 0.2% from October to November. Year over year, the index increased 0.5%, which is below the Federal Reserve’s target annual inflation pace of 2%.

Consumer Confidence. The U.S. Consumer Confidence Index® increased 3.9 points to 96.5 in December. The Present Situation Index increased 4.4 points to 115.3, and the Expectations Index increased 3.5 points to 83.9.