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It is defined by the volume of one acre of surface area to a depth of one foot. Since the acre is defined as a chain by a furlong (66 ft × 660 ft) the acre-foot is exactly 43,560 cubic feet. Thus, the two definitions of the acre foot (differing by about 0.0006%) depend on whether the international or U.S. survey foot is used.
|1 international acre foot||≡ 43,560 international cubic feet (by definition)|
|= 1233.48183754752 m3 (exactly)|
|= 325,851 3⁄7 U.S. gal (exactly)|
|≈ 271,328.072596 imp gal|
|1 U.S. survey acre foot||≡ 43,560 U.S. survey cubic feet (by definition)|
|≈ 1233.4892384681 m3|
|≈ 325,853.383688 U.S. gal[nb 1]|
|≈ 271,329.700571 imp gal|
As a rule of thumb in U.S. water management, one acre-foot is taken to be the planned water usage of a suburban family household, annually. In some areas of the desert Southwest, where water conservation is followed and often enforced, a typical family uses only about 0.25 acre-feet of water per year.
The acre-foot (or more specifically the time rate unit of acre-foot per year) has been used historically in the U.S. in many water-management agreements, for example the Colorado River Compact, which divides 15 million acre-feet (MAF) per year or (586 m³/s) among seven western U.S. states.
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