Water: Another Scapegoat

Once again, the environmental community takes a problem in one area, and uses it to force regulations on the entire country.

A recent article in Power Magazine linked GHG emissions and water usage, proposing that the entire country should adopt only those energy-producing technologies that emit the lowest amount of CO2 and use the least amount of water.

There is a recognized problem with water usage in the Southwest, but there is no real problem with water availability in most of the rest of the country.

This map from the USGS shows how water availability is spread across the United States.

It shows water usage as a percentage of renewable water supplies.

precip in USA
Precipitation in USA

With respect to the generation of electricity, water availability should be associated with population, as this is where the majority of power plants need to be located. Population is mostly centered east of the Mississippi, and there are abundant supplies of water to support power plants requiring the use of water for cooling.

East of the Mississippi, and in the Northwest, less than 10% of the renewable water supply is consumed by all users. There is more than enough water to supply all the power plants in these areas, including any new plants that must be built.

There are ample supplies of water for fracking in these areas.

It’s only in the Southwest that there is a lack of water, and where new cooling technologies are required for power generation.

Areas shaded in pink, which are primarily in the midcontinent, use more than 10%, but still use far less than renewable supplies. There is ample water for new power plants and for fracking.

Even in the Southwest, there is no reason to curtail building new base load power plants, because air cooling, though more expensive, is available.

Power Magazine, which used to be an advocate for the power industry, seems to have joined other media outlets in highlighting climate change issues. Commentary in its latest issue focused on water usage, painting a bleak, broad brush picture, and linking water usage and GHG emissions.

Power Magazines’ apocalyptic commentary on water is intended to foster regulations for curtailing the use of water everywhere, regardless of how much water is actually available.

Droughts, of course, can affect supplies locally, but they come and go. Several years ago a drought threatened the water levels of Lake Lanier, Georgia, where levels were 20 feet below normal. Heavy rains have corrected the situation, and Lake Lanier is now full, with its surface at 1071 feet above sea level.

Activists decry water usage, but there is adequate water for power generation, fracking, and our other energy needs in most areas of the country.

Water levels in the Great Lakes have also been the target of environmental activists, and will be discussed in the next article.


  1. Water level history lake Lanier http://lanier.uslakes.info/Level.asp


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