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Thermoelectric-power water use reanalysis for the 2008-2020 period by power plant, month, and year for the conterminous United States

November 2, 2023

Previous work by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) developed models to estimate the amount of water that is withdrawn and consumed by thermoelectric power plants (Diehl and others, 2013; Diehl and Harris, 2014; Harris and Diehl, 2019 [full citations listed in srcinfo of the metadata file]). This data release presents a historical reanalysis of thermoelectric water use from 2008 to 2020 and includes monthly and annual water withdrawal and consumption estimates, thermodynamically plausible ranges of minimum and maximum withdrawal and consumption estimates, and associated information for 1,360 water-using, utility-scale thermoelectric power plants in the United States. The term “reanalysis” refers to the process of reevaluating and recalculating water-use data using updated or refined methods, data sources, models, or assumptions. For this case, new estimates of withdrawal and consumption were made using new data sources and methods which involved taking existing historical data and subjecting it to a thorough review and revision to improve accuracy, completeness, and consistency. Reanalysis included incorporating new datasets, refining methodologies, and adjusting for changes in technology, regulations, or knowledge. The goal of reanalysis was to provide more accurate and up-to-date water-use estimates that reflects the most current understanding of water-use patterns and factors affecting water usage in the United States. This historical reanalysis was completed by running thermoelectric water-use models that are based on linked heat-and-water budgets (models contained within this data release). The linked heat-and-water budgets are constrained by the following data (also contained within this data release): power plant generation and cooling system technologies, the quantity of fuels consumed and electricity generated, as well as environmental variables. The heat-budget component of the models calculates the amount of waste heat (fuel heat that is not converted to electricity) that is removed from the steam used to drive the turbines that generate electricity. The waste heat is transferred to the cooling system in a thermoelectric power plant’s condenser, which is defined as the condenser duty (Diehl and others, 2013). The water-budget component of the models calculates the amount of water that is withdrawn and consumed based on plant-specific condenser duty, and environmental variables (air temperatures, water temperatures, wind speed, and elevation). The models were updated using the same formulation previously developed (Diehl and others, 2013) and updates include enhancements of automatic data collectors, nationally consistent and operational environmental variables, and simulated water temperatures for plant intakes provided by the USGS National Hydrologic Model (Regan and others, 2018; Hay and others, 2023). These new features enable reproducibility and are an important step toward an operational modeling framework for making nationally consistent historical and forecasted future water-use estimates that are independent of Federal plant-operator reported water withdrawal and consumption data. Total estimated water withdrawal (including fresh and saline sources) ranged from 132 billion gallons per day (Bgal/d) in 2008 to 80 Bgal/d in 2020. Total estimated water consumption (including only fresh sources; consumption at coastal saline plants was not modeled) ranged from 3.6 Bgal/d in 2008 to 2.7 Bgal/d in 2020. Gorman Sanisaca and others, 2023, provides monthly condenser duty estimates and associated information from 2008 to 2020 that are used by the models reported here for estimating withdrawals and consumption.

Publication Year 2023
Title Thermoelectric-power water use reanalysis for the 2008-2020 period by power plant, month, and year for the conterminous United States
DOI 10.5066/P9ZE2FVM
Authors Amy E Galanter, Lillian E Gorman Sanisaca, Kenneth D Skinner, Melissa A Harris, Timothy H Diehl, Catherine A Chamberlin, Brendan A Mccarthy, Andrew S Halper, Richard Niswonger, Jana S Stewart, Steven L Markstrom, Irucka A Embry, Scott C Worland
Product Type Data Release
Record Source USGS Digital Object Identifier Catalog
USGS Organization New Mexico Water Science Center