Power plants across the United States are contributing to water stress and impacting water quality according to a new report released by the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS).
To analyze current and future water demand and supplies for the report, Freshwater Use by U.S. Power Plants: Electricitys Thirst for a Precious Resource, UCS researchers used results from the Eastern Forest Environmental Threat Assessment Centers (EFETAC) Water Supply Stress Index (WaSSI) model.
“The WaSSI model projects water supply and demand at a monthly scale for both historic and future conditions,” explains Ge Sun, EFETAC research hydrologist. “Power plants use a lot of water for cooling purposes, especially in the eastern United States. An accurate estimate of this energy sectors water use is critical for projecting water stress when other uses—residential, industrial, agricultural—are also taken into account.”
EFETAC scientists provided the UCS with technical support in quantifying water supply and demand for over 2,100 watersheds across the lower 48 United States. Based on the UCS studys results, the scientists will update existing databases detailing water demand, which will further refine WaSSIs ability to accurately project water stress and address critical national issues. “We are pleased that researchers beyond the Forest Service value continental scale water balance modeling,” says Sun. “Future energy development is linked to water quantity and quality issues no matter the source of the energy. Saving energy is saving water!”
The UCS report—the first in a series for the Energy and Water in a Warming World Initiative —is intended to advance the Nations dialogue about energy and water use and inform future decisions related to U.S. energy development.