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Generating Electricity Demands Staggering Amounts of Freshwater Resources

The Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) has issued a recent report (Freshwater Use by U.S. Power Plants: Electricity’s Thirst for a Precious Resource) which focuses on water usage by power plants throughout the United States. According to the UCS, “Take the average amount of water flowing over Niagara Falls in a minute. Now triple it. That’s almost how much water power plants in the United States take in for cooling each minute, on average.”

“In 2005, the nation’s thermoelectric power plants—which boil water to create steam, which in turn drives turbines to produce electricity—withdrew as much water as farms did, and more than four times as much as all U.S. residences.  That means lighting rooms, powering computers and TVs, and running appliances requires more water, on average, than the total amount we use in our homes—washing dishes and clothes, showering, flushing toilets, and watering lawns and gardens.”

“This tremendous volume of water has to come from somewhere. Across the country, water demand from power plants is combining with pressure from growing populations and other needs, and is straining our water resources—especially during droughts and heat waves.”

“Collisions and near-misses between energy and water needs point to the importance of accurate, up-to-date information on power plant water demand” – and objective of the UCS report – along with an “analysis that provides a strong initial basis for making water-smart energy choices.”

And as future decisions about retrofitting existing plants – or building new ones – are made,  it needs to be ensured that the “dependence of power plants on water does not compromise that resource, the plants themselves, or the energy we rely on them to provide.”

Visit the Union of Concerned Scientist article on the “Freshwater Use by U.S. Power Plants” report here.

Or the executive summary of the “Freshwater Use by U.S. Power Plants” report here.

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