Rethinking Power Plants

By: Jill Cordes
By: Jill Cordes

There's no getting around it - we need water, and we need electricity. And at current growth levels, we need more of both every day. But while three quarters of the Earth is covered by water, only about 3% of that is drinkable, and we use a lot of that freshwater to make energy.

Here in the US, nearly 40% of the fresh water withdrawals goes to power plants. A large percentage of that helps run coal, nuclear, and oil electricity plants and also grows biofuels like corn ethanol.

But climate change is contributing to prolonged droughts. So, continuing to depend on water-consuming power plants may become more difficult in the future.

But not all power plants are water hogs. Renewable electricity like wind and solar photovoltaics typically use little to no water to create electricity.

With limited water resources today and the threat of a changing climate's impact on water availability, water will affect our future energy choices. We'll need to be smart and efficient about managing both.


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