A Survey of Water Use and Sustainability in the United States with a Focus on Power Generation — Electric Power Research Institute

This study presented an assessment of current and future water withdrawal requirements compared with water availability, resolved at the level of counties across the continental US. Various metrics characterizing water use are computed and mapped. These metrics represent, for example, water availability, the extent of water resources development, sustainable groundwater use, environmental constraints on withdrawal, projected growth in water demand and power generation, and growth in demand for stored water. Using these metrics of water use, two composite indices are proposed: a Water Supply Sustainability Index and a Thermoelectric Cooling Constraint Index. The first index identifies regions of the country where water sustainability concerns are likely to be most severe, and the second identifies regions where constraints on cooling water withdrawals for power generation are expected to be significant. Maps of these indices can be the basis for further study at more localized levels. One such case study is presented in this report, for the Phoenix area in Arizona. This case study reveals, in addition to the physical limits associated with water availability because of growing demands, the significance of limits imposed by the existing legal and institutional infrastructure. Overall, this study was a step towards developing a comprehensive assessment of the nation’s water resources, one that has not been conducted for the past twenty-five years, and towards evaluating the possible impacts of water supply limitations on thermoelectric power generation.


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