News / USA

US Energy Production Facing Limits of Water Scarcity

Zulima Palacio

Scientists, climatologists and energy experts share a growing concern: the need for water in the production of energy, especially in regions that are experiencing serious drought.  Generating power - whether it be from fossil fuels or renewable energy sources - requires large amounts of water.

Nearly all forms of energy production use large amounts of water.  Coal, which generates nearly 50 percent of the electricity in the U.S., needs water for mining and transport, and to cool and lubricate equipment.

Water is also used to cool fuel rods at nuclear plants and to generate steam to power  turbines. The biofuel industry needs water for irrigation, fermentation and the production of ethanol and biodiesel fuels.

Alexander Ochs, director of climate and energy at the Worldwatch Institute, says that adds up to a lot of water.

“Per megawatt hour, coal uses 500 to 1000 gallons of water for the production of just one megawatt hour of electricity," said Ochs. "If we look at all the plants combined in the U.S., all the thermo-electric plants [powered by steam] in the U.S. in 2008 alone, they drew 60 billion to 170 billion gallons of water, per year.”

Without water, most types of energy could not be produced. Even renewable energy, like geothermal and solar, use water to cool equipment and to clean the collector panels.  

Those requirements have led California, Massachusetts and several Midwestern states to halt the operations of some power plants.

“Places like the Midwest where water is a very scarce resource already today, a number of power plants have actually been halted, and this is actually true for across the United States," said Ochs.

David Brown directs programs for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration  across the southern United States. NOAA collects data on climate patterns.  Brown says the drought in the American Southwest, the worst in a century, is prompting changes in the energy industry.

"Energy companies are also being forced to be more efficient in the way they use water, whether it is for electricity production in a coal factory or in the mining of natural resources through the fracking [hydraulic fracturing to extract natural gas] process," said Brown. "These companies are also realizing that water resources are strained and will continue to be strained as the climate continues to warm,”

The NOAA expert says water systems in the American Southwest will be under even greater stress over the next several decades.  

The agriculture industry is the prime user of water in the United States, closely followed by energy production.

Experts say competition for water resources - from a growing population, and from the agriculture and energy industries - will require difficult decisions, eventually, by local and national governments.

You May Like

Video Five Patients Given Experimental Ebola Drug Said To Be Improving

Experimental drugs have been tried on six people: three Westerners and now, three African pyhysicians More

Video In Ukraine, Fear and Distrust Remain Where Fighting has Stopped

As Ukrainian military reclaims control of eastern cities residents rebuild their lives, but many say everyone is being treated with suspicion More

Video In Rural Kenya, Pressure Builds Against Female Circumcision

Girls learn to object; FGM practitioners face penalties from jail sentences to stiff fines More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Five Patients Given Experimental Ebola Drug Said to Be Improvingi
X
Carol Pearson
August 19, 2014 11:43 PM
The World Health Organization has approved the use of experimental treatments for Ebola patients in West Africa. The Ebola outbreak there is unprecedented, the disease deadly. The number of people who have died from Ebola has surpassed 1,200. VOA's Carol Pearson reports on the ethical considerations of allowing experimental drugs to be used.
Video

Video Five Patients Given Experimental Ebola Drug Said to Be Improving

The World Health Organization has approved the use of experimental treatments for Ebola patients in West Africa. The Ebola outbreak there is unprecedented, the disease deadly. The number of people who have died from Ebola has surpassed 1,200. VOA's Carol Pearson reports on the ethical considerations of allowing experimental drugs to be used.
Video

Video In Ukraine, Fear and Distrust Remain Where Fighting has Stopped

As the Ukrainian military reclaims control of eastern cities from pro-Russian separatists, residents are getting a chance to rebuild their lives. VOA's Gabe Joselow reports from the town of Kramatorsk in Donetsk province, where a sense of fear is still in the air, and distrust of the government in Kyiv still runs deep.
Video

Video China Targets Overseas Assets of Corrupt Officials

As China presses forward with its anti-graft effort, authorities are targeting corrupt officials who have sent family members and assets overseas. The efforts have stirred up a debate at home on exactly how many officials take that route and how likely it is they will be caught. Rebecca Valli has this report.
Video

Video Leading The Fight Against Islamic State, Kurds Question Iraqi Future

Western countries including the United States have begun arming the Kurdish Peshmerga forces in northern Iraq to aid their battle against extremist Sunni militants from the Islamic State. But there are concerns that a heavily-armed Kurdistan Regional Government, or KRG, might seek to declare independence and cause the break-up of the Iraqi state. As Henry Ridgwell reports from London, the KRG says it will only seek greater autonomy from Baghdad.
Video

Video In Rural Kenya, Pressure Builds Against Female Circumcision

In some Kenyan communities, female genital mutilation remains a rite of passage. But activists are pushing back, with education for girls and with threats of punishment those who perform the circumcision. Mohammed Yusuf looks at the practice in the rural eastern community of Tharaka-Nithi.
Video

Video For Obama, Racial Violence is Personal Issue

The racial violence in the St. Louis suburb of Ferguson is presenting U.S. President Barack Obama with an issue to which he has a deep personal connection. To many Americans, Obama's election as America's first black president marked a turning point in race relations in the United States, and Obama has made ending the violence a policy priority. On Monday he issued a new call for calm and understanding. Luis Ramirez reports from the White House.
Video

Video Clinton-Obama Relationship Could Impact 2016 Election

President Barack Obama and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton have a long and complicated relationship. That relationship took another turn recently when Clinton criticized the president’s foreign policy. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone reports there is renewed attention on the Clinton-Obama relationship as Hillary Clinton considers running for
Video

Video Iran Looks to Maintain Influence in Baghdad With New Shia PM

Washington and Tehran share the goal of stopping Syrian-based militants in Iraq. But experts say it's Iran, not the United States, that will most influence how the new government in Baghdad approaches internal reforms and the war in Syria. VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns has the story.

AppleAndroid