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An acre-foot volume (not drawn to scale)
General information
Unit systemUS Customary units
Unit ofVolume
1 ac⋅ft in ...... is equal to ...
   SI units   ≈ 1,233.5 m3
   US customary units   43,560 cu ft
   US customary units   ≈ 325,850 US gal
   Imperial units   ≈ 271,330 imp gal

The acre-foot is a non-SI unit of volume equal to about 1,233 m3 commonly used in the United States in reference to large-scale water resources, such as reservoirs, aqueducts, canals, sewer flow capacity, irrigation water,[1] and river flows.

An acre-foot equals approximately an eight-lane swimming pool, 82 ft (25 m) long, 52 ft (16 m) wide and 9.8 ft (3 m) deep.


As the name suggests, an acre-foot is defined as the volume of one acre of surface area to a depth of one foot.

Since an acre is defined as a chain by a furlong (i.e. 66 ft × 660 ft or 20.12 m × 201.17 m), an acre-foot is 43,560 cubic feet (1,233.5 m3).

There are two definitions of an acre-foot (differing by about 0.0006%), depending on whether the "foot" used is an "international foot" or a "U.S. survey foot".

1 acre-foot = 43,560 cubic feet = 75,271,680 cu in
1 international acre-foot = 43,560 international cubic feet
= 1,233.48183754752 m3
≈ 271,328.072596 imp gal
= 325,851+37 US gal
1 U.S. survey acre-foot = 43,560 U.S. survey cubic feet
≈ 1233.4892384681 m3
≈ 271,329.700571 imp gal
≈ 325,853.383688 U.S. gal[a]


As a rule of thumb in US water management, one acre-foot is taken to be the planned annual water usage of a suburban family household.[b] In some areas of the desert Southwest, where water conservation is followed and often enforced, a typical family uses only about 0.25 acre-foot of water per year.[3] One acre-foot/year is approximately 119 cu ft/d (3.38 m3/d).

The acre-foot per year has been used historically in the US in many water-management agreements, for example the Colorado River Compact, which divides 15×10^6 acre⋅ft/a (590 m3/s) among seven western US states.

Water reservoir capacities in the US are commonly given in thousands of acre-feet, abbreviated TAF or KAF.

In most other countries except the US, the metric system is in common use and water volumes are normally expressed in liter, cubic meter or cubic kilometer. One acre-foot is approximately equivalent to 1.233 megaliters. Large bodies of water may be measured in cubic kilometers (1,000,000,000 m3, or 1000 gigaliter), with 1 million acre-feet approximately equalling 1.233 km3.

See also[edit]

Explanatory notes[edit]

  1. ^ This conversion assumes the international foot is used to define the U.S. gallon and the U.S. survey foot to define the acre foot. If the same foot is used for both, the result is the 325,851+37 U.S. gal figure as obtained previously.
  2. ^ The state of Montana assumes 1.0 acre-foot per year for a family of five.[2]


  1. ^ "NM OSE Glossary". Archived from the original on 14 November 2005. Retrieved 15 March 2014.
  2. ^ Water Rights Bureau; state of Montana (13 April 2004). "Form No. 627 R8/03 Notice of Water Right" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 25 January 2008. Retrieved 30 January 2008.
  3. ^ Santa Fe, New Mexico rate averages 0.25 acre-foot per year per household. See Planning Division, Planning & Land Use Department, City of Santa Fe, New Mexico (February 2001). "Water Use in Santa Fe: A survey of residential and commercial water use in the Santa Fe urban area". Archived from the original (PDF) on 22 July 2012. Retrieved 30 January 2008.