Water for Cooling Thermoelectric Power Plants in the Great Lakes Basin is an Undervalued Resource

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Courtesy of IWA Publishing

Water availability is critical to power generation: Without access to adequate amounts of water for cooling, power plants that rely on heat energy to generate electricity cannot operate. In the U.S., population growth and increasing incidents of drought are challenging the sustainability of water supplies needed for power generation. In the face of potential water shortages caused by increased demand and potential effects of climate changes, the U.S. electric power industry would seem to have an urgent incentive to improve water conservation. Such urgency is not apparent however in the Great Lakes region where fresh-water resources are wrongly perceived to be endlessly abundant. In fact water resources in the Great Lakes basin are subject to excessive demands and the thermoelectric power sector will face increased competition for finite water resources. The Great Lakes basin is a particularly apt case for the study of thermoelectric power water use for two reasons: (1) thermoelectric power is the largest source of energy in the region; and (2) the thermoelectric power sector is the largest consumer of water in the region.

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