This website is the digital version of the 2014 National Climate Assessment, produced in collaboration with the U.S. Global Change Research Program.

For the official version, please refer to the PDF in the downloads section. The downloadable PDF is the official version of the 2014 National Climate Assessment.

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Welcome to the National Climate Assessment

The National Climate Assessment summarizes the impacts of climate change on the United States, now and in the future.

A team of more than 300 experts guided by a 60-member Federal Advisory Committee produced the report, which was extensively reviewed by the public and experts, including federal agencies and a panel of the National Academy of Sciences.

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Figure 10.5: Water Use for Electricity Generation by Fuel and Cooling Technology

Water Use for Electricity Generation by Fuel and Cooling Technology

Figure 10.5: Technology choices can significantly affect water and land use. These two panels show a selection of technologies. Ranges in water withdrawal/consumption reflect minimum and maximum amounts of water used for selected technologies. Carbon dioxide capture and storage (CCS) is not included in the figures, but is discussed in the text. The top panel shows water withdrawals for various electricity production methods. Some methods, like most conventional nuclear power plants that use “once-through” cooling systems, require large water withdrawals but return most of that water to the source (usually rivers and streams). For nuclear plants, utilizing cooling ponds can dramatically reduce water withdrawal from streams and rivers, but increases the total amount of water consumed. Beyond large withdrawals, once-through cooling systems also affect the environment by trapping aquatic life in intake structures and by increasing the temperature of streams.1 Alternatively, once-through systems tend to operate at slightly better efficiencies than plants using other cooling systems. The bottom panel shows water consumption for various electricity production methods. Coal-powered plants using recirculating water systems have relatively low requirements for water withdrawals, but consume much more of that water, as it is turned into steam. Water consumption is much smaller for various dry-cooled electricity generation technologies, including for coal, which is not shown. Although small in relation to cooling water needs, water consumption also occurs throughout the fuel and power cycle.2 (Figure source: Averyt et al. 20113).

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References

  1. Averyt, K., J. Fisher, A. Huber-Lee, A. Lewis, J. Macknick, N. Madden, J. Rogers, and S. Tellinghuisen, 2011: Freshwater Use by US Power Plants: Electricity’s Thirst for a Precious Resource. A Report of the Energy and Water in a Warming World initiative. 62 pp., Union of Concerned Scientists. URL | Detail

  2. EPA, 2013: Cooling Water Intake Structures—CWA 316(b). U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. URL | Detail

  3. Meldrum, J., S. Nettles-Anderson, G. Heath, and J. Macknick, 2013: Life cycle water use for electricity generation: A review and harmonization of literature estimates. Environmental Research Letters, 8, 015031, doi:10.1088/1748-9326/8/1/015031. URL | Detail

The National Climate Assessment summarizes the impacts of climate change on the United States, now and in the future.

A team of more than 300 experts guided by a 60-member Federal Advisory Committee produced the report, which was extensively reviewed by the public and experts, including federal agencies and a panel of the National Academy of Sciences.

United States Global Change Research Program logo United States Global Change Research Program participating agency logos