Thermoelectric water withdrawals in the U.S.: Past, present, and future

Document Type

Contribution to Book

Journal/Book Title

Thermoelectric Power


Nova Science Publishers

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Last Page



Compared with many other countries, the United States is relatively well endowed with water resources. Despite this abundance, water adequacy has emerged as one ofAmerica's primary resource issues. Since 1965, thermoelectric power production has exceeded agriculture in water withdrawals. In spite of its large quantity and potential adverse environmental impacts, studies on thermoelectric water use are limited. This study analyzes thermoelectric withdrawals in the U. S., including water sources, spatial distribution, and historical changes. A regression model was developed to identify the significant factors influencing water withdrawals needed for power production. Futurethermoelectric water withdrawals were forecast through 2030 for large-scale energy production and USGS hydrologic regions. Arid inland hydrologic regions such as theColorado, Rio Grande, and Great Basin cannot support once-through cooling systems,thus requiring expensive recirculating cooling systems that reduce withdrawals by 95percent but evaporate more than 50 percent of water withdrawn. In these regions, water availability is a limiting factor for electricity production. More humid hydrologic regions such as the Texas-Gulf could face increasing issues of water availability with a consequent need to shift to recirculating systems.

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