Daily CSR
Daily CSR

Daily CSR
Daily news about corporate social responsibility, ethics and sustainability

Addressing ‘The Energy-Water Collision’


Embracing energy conservation and transitioning towards renewable energy needs to be the focus.

Dailycsr.com – 23 August 2019 – According to “2015 Department of the Interior data”, nearly “322 billion” gallons of water is consumed on a daily basis across the United States. There are eight categories as per the various usage of water, namely “aquaculture, domestic, industrial, irrigation, livestock, mining, public supply, and thermoelectric power”. But the question is which among these eight holds the highest usage percentage.
Interestingly, 42% of daily water usage in the U.S. is occurs due to “thermoelectric power generation”, which accounts for “132.9” billion gallons of water. John A. Lanier writes:
“A couple of disclaimers are worth noting here. First, if we looked at just freshwater, then thermoelectric power would finish second to irrigation (118 billion gallons per day vs. 95.1 billion gallons per day). Keeping our lights on/air cold/gadgets working still accounts for 34% of freshwater withdrawals though. Second, a lot of the water used for electricity generation does get put back from whence it came”.
However, there seems to be a problem as the power plants appear to be “thirsty”. In order to function, thermoelectric power plants needs power source for generating “lots and lots of heat” which they get either by burning fossil fuels or splitting atoms. The heat, thus generated, boils water and the steam then pushes the turbine to create electricity.
Nevertheless, the water involved to generate steam does not account for 100% water usage in the process as the main water is needed as coolant which allows the steam condensation before “running through the turbines again”.
According to thermodynamics’ “law of the conservation of energy to thermodynamic systems” using cold water as a coolant for hot steam will only warm up the cold water. And hot water is not a favourable environment for many aquatic fauna and flora. As a result, the discharge of these waters leads to thermal pollution.
Often these discharges are regulated which goes to mean that “power plants will have to limit power production or shut down if their discharge water is too warm”. Additionally, water gets too hot at times for using the same as coolant. This issue is often experienced in summers while the situation is likely to get worse with global warming.
Droughts seem to pose yet another challenge for these power plants while the predictions say that they are going to “be more frequent as the climate changes”. This issue is termed as “The Energy-Water Collision” by the “Union of Concerned Scientists” which could be solved through “conserving energy and transitioning to renewable energy”.
The said approach also provides solution to multiple problems including some of the “water challenges”.