The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) and U.S. Census Bureau combine their resources to measure what portion of each state is land and what is water. The water portion of nine states is less than 1%.
USGS researchers wrote in their study on the matter, “These water area data represent the sum of inland and coastal water and the Great Lakes.” The writers posed the questions:
What percent of your state do you think is water covered? Which state has the highest percentage of water area? Is the West really “drier” than the rest of the country?
The measurement takes into account total square mileage of each state, land area square miles and water-covered square miles, to yield the percentage area of water. The U.S. total figure is 7%.
The nine states: New Mexico (0.2%), Arizona (0.3%), Colorado (0.4%), Kansas (0.6%), Iowa (0.7%), Nebraska (0.7%), Wyoming (0.7%), Nevada (0.7%) and West Virginia (0.8%). Since the figure has nothing to do with all water available for human and agricultural use, some of the states on the list have little or no drought problems. (Drought-plagued California’s figure is 4.8%.)
The list at the other end of the spectrum shows the effects of the Great Lakes and coastal waters. Michigan is the state most rich in water area at 41.5%, with Hawaii barely behind at 41.2%. The balance of the top 10 are Rhode Island (33.1%), Massachusetts (26.1%), Maryland (21.8%), Delaware (21.7%), Florida (18.5%), Louisiana (17.5%), Wisconsin (17.3%) and New Jersey (15.7%).
Methodology: The area measurements were derived from the Census Bureau’s Master Address File/Topologically Integrated Geographic Encoding and Referencing (MAF/TIGER) database. The boundaries of the states and equivalent areas are as of January 1, 2010. The land and water areas, including their classifications, reflect base feature updates made in the MAF/TIGER database through August 2010. The area measurements, in square kilometers and square miles, are for statistical purposes only.