United States Environment - 2022


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Environment - current issues

air pollution; large emitter of carbon dioxide from the burning of fossil fuels; water pollution from runoff of pesticides and fertilizers; declining natural freshwater resources in much of the western part of the country require careful management; deforestation; mining; desertification; species conservation; invasive species (the Hawaiian Islands are particularly vulnerable)

Environment - international agreements

party to: Air Pollution, Air Pollution-Heavy Metals, Air Pollution-Multi-effect Protocol, Air Pollution-Nitrogen Oxides, Antarctic-Environmental Protection, Antarctic-Marine Living Resources, Antarctic Seals, Antarctic Treaty, Climate Change, Climate Change-Paris Agreement, Desertification, Endangered Species, Environmental Modification, Marine Dumping-London Convention, Marine Life Conservation, Nuclear Test Ban, Ozone Layer Protection, Ship Pollution, Tropical Timber 2006, Wetlands, Whaling

signed, but not ratified: Air Pollution-Persistent Organic Pollutants, Air Pollution-Volatile Organic Compounds, Biodiversity, Climate Change-Kyoto Protocol, Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban, Hazardous Wastes, Marine Dumping-London Protocol

Air pollutants

particulate matter emissions: 7.4 micrograms per cubic meter (2016 est.)

carbon dioxide emissions: 5,006.3 megatons (2016 est.)

methane emissions: 685.74 megatons (2020 est.)


mostly temperate, but tropical in Hawaii and Florida, arctic in Alaska, semiarid in the great plains west of the Mississippi River, and arid in the Great Basin of the southwest; low winter temperatures in the northwest are ameliorated occasionally in January and February by warm chinook winds from the eastern slopes of the Rocky Mountains

note: many consider Denali, the highest peak in the US, to be the world’s coldest mountain because of its combination of high elevation and its subarctic location at 63 degrees north latitude; permanent snow and ice cover over 75 percent of the mountain, and enormous glaciers, up to 45 miles long and 3,700 feet thick, spider out from its base in every direction; it is home to some of the world’s coldest and most violent weather, where winds of over 150 miles per hour and temperatures of -93˚F have been recorded.  

Land use

agricultural land: 44.5% (2018 est.)

arable land: 16.8% (2018 est.)

permanent crops: 0.3% (2018 est.)

permanent pasture: 27.4% (2018 est.)

forest: 33.3% (2018 est.)

other: 22.2% (2018 est.)


urban population: 83.1% of total population (2022)

rate of urbanization: 0.96% annual rate of change (2020-25 est.)

total population growth rate v. urban population growth rate, 2000-2030

Revenue from forest resources

forest revenues: 0.04% of GDP (2018 est.)

Revenue from coal

coal revenues: 0.2% of GDP (2018 est.)

Waste and recycling

municipal solid waste generated annually: 258 million tons (2015 est.)

municipal solid waste recycled annually: 89.268 million tons (2014 est.)

percent of municipal solid waste recycled: 34.6% (2014 est.)

Major lakes (area sq km)

fresh water lake(s): Michigan – 57,750 sq km; Superior* – 53,348 sq km; Huron* – 23,597 sq km; Erie* – 12,890 sq km; Ontario* – 9,220 sq km; Lake of the Woods – 4,350 sq km; Iliamna – 2,590 sq km; Okeechobee – 1,810 sq km; Belcharof – 1,190 sq km; Red – 1,170 sq km; Saint Clair – 1,113 sq km; Champlain – 1,100 sq km
note - Great Lakes* area shown as US waters

salt water lake(s): Great Salt – 4,360 sq km; Pontchartrain – 1,620 sq km;  Selawik – 1,400 sq km; Salton Sea – 950 sq km

Major rivers (by length in km)

Missouri - 3,768 km; Mississippi - 3,544 km; Yukon river mouth (shared with Canada [s]) - 3,190 km; Saint Lawrence (shared with Canada) - 3,058 km; Rio Grande river source ( mouth shared with Mexico) - 3,057 km; Colorado river source (shared with Mexico [m]) - 2,333 km; Arkansas - 2,348 km; Columbia river mouth (shared with Canada [s]) - 2,250 km; Red - 2,188 km; Ohio - 2,102 km; Snake - 1,670 km
note – [s] after country name indicates river source; [m] after country name indicates river mouth

Major watersheds (area sq km)

Atlantic Ocean drainage: (Gulf of Mexico) Mississippi* (3,202,185 sq km); Rio Grande (607,965 sq km); (Gulf of Saint Lawrence) Saint Lawrence* (1,049,636 sq km total, US only 505,000 sq km)
Pacific Ocean drainage: Yukon* (847,620 sq km, US only 23,820 sq km); Colorado (703,148 sq km); Columbia* (657,501 sq km, US only 554,501 sq km)
note - watersheds shared with Canada shown with *

Major aquifers

Northern Great Plains Aquifer, Cambrian-Ordovician Aquifer System, Californian Central Valley Aquifer System, Ogallala Aquifer (High Plains), Atlantic and Gulf Coastal Plains Aquifer

Total water withdrawal

municipal: 58.39 billion cubic meters (2017 est.)

industrial: 209.7 billion cubic meters (2017 est.)

agricultural: 176.2 billion cubic meters (2017 est.)

Total renewable water resources

3.069 trillion cubic meters (2017 est.)

NOTE: The information regarding United States on this page is re-published from the 2022 World Fact Book of the United States Central Intelligence Agency and other sources. No claims are made regarding the accuracy of United States 2022 information contained here. All suggestions for corrections of any errors about United States 2022 should be addressed to the CIA or the source cited on each page.

This page was last modified 01 Dec 23, Copyright © 23 ITA all rights reserved.