Publication Details

Title : Regional and seasonal water stress analysis of United States thermoelectricity
Publication Date : June 01, 2020
Publication Journal :
Authors : U. Lee, J. Chou, H. Xu, D. Carlson, A. Venkatesh, E. Shuster, T. Skone, M. Wang
Abstract : Most thermoelectric power plants in the United States (U.S.) rely on fresh water for cooling, resulting in significant water consumption. An understanding of the regional and seasonal water stress impact of such water consumption is needed. In this study, we used a U.S. county-level water stress index, Available Water Remaining for the United States (AWARE-US), with facility-level thermoelectric power generation water consumption data, to quantify the regional and seasonal water stress impact of U.S. thermoelectric power plants. Water stress impact was evaluated as water-scarcity footprint (WSF) using monthly AWARE-US data. Results show that most thermoelectric power plants in the United States that use fresh water are in water-abundant regions. Our findings also show that a small fraction of the U.S. thermoelectric generation facilities (13% by power) located in water stressed regions contribute the most water stress impact (88% of the total WSF) caused by thermoelectric power generation in the U.S. Even if fresh water is abundant on an annual basis, many power plants are in counties with seasonal water shortages. Of the 401 counties with thermoelectric power plants using fresh water for cooling, 80 counties in February and 160 counties in August had fresh water withdrawal requirements that exceeded the sustainable fresh water available (availability minus demand or AMD) in that region. This means that 27% and 46% of power generation facilities have difficulty securing sustainable fresh water in February and August, respectively. This study is intended to support water consumption management in existing power plants and guide the deployment of future power plants to mitigate water stress impact.