Water Use for Electricity Generation by Fuel and Cooling Technology
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.