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Withdrawal and consumption of water by thermoelectric power plants in the United States, 2010

September 24, 2014

Estimates of water use at thermoelectric plants were developed by the U.S. Geological Survey based on linked heat and water budgets, and complement reported thermoelectric water withdrawals and consumption. The heat- and water-budget models produced withdrawal and consumption estimates, including thermodynamically plausible ranges of minimum and maximum withdrawal and consumption, for 1,290 water-using plants in the United States for 2010. Total estimated withdrawal for 2010 was about 129 billion gallons per day (Bgal/d), and total estimated consumption was about 3.5 Bgal/d. In contrast, total withdrawal reported by the U.S. Department of Energy, Energy Information Administration (EIA), was about 24 percent higher than the modeled estimates, and total EIA-reported consumption was about 8 percent lower. Most thermoelectric generation in 2010 was not associated with thermodynamically plausible EIA-reported values of both withdrawal and consumption.


An analysis of 2005 and 2010 EIA-reported water use indicated that withdrawal and consumption declined 18 percent and 34 percent, respectively. Alternative water types (types other than freshwater) accounted for approximately 25 percent of all withdrawals in 2010, most of which occurred at plants with once-through cooling systems using saline and brackish tidal waters. Differences among withdrawal and consumption coefficients based on EIA-reported water use for 2005 and 2010 and heat-budget model results for 2010 reveal opportunities for improving consistency and accuracy of reporting of water-use information at the plant scale.

Publication Year 2014
Title Withdrawal and consumption of water by thermoelectric power plants in the United States, 2010
DOI 10.3133/sir20145184
Authors Timothy H. Diehl, Melissa A. Harris
Publication Type Report
Publication Subtype USGS Numbered Series
Series Title Scientific Investigations Report
Series Number 2014-5184
Index ID sir20145184
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse