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Fossil Fuels Sucking Up Our Water Amid Widespread Drought

Fossil Fuels Sucking Up Our Water Amid Widespread Drought

In case you haven’t noticed. America is badly in need of rain. At this moment, massive wildfires are burning holes into nine different Western states. Every single region of the country is experiencing some form of drought. The water crisis is knocking on America’s door, but we’re oblivious to the single biggest waster of fresh water operating right under our noses.

A new report by River Network reveals that thermoelectric energy (including coal, nuclear and natural gas) is the fastest growing use of freshwater resources in the country. The report, Burning Our Rivers: The Water Footprint of Electricity [PDF], found that for every gallon of water used in an average household, five times more water (40,000 gallons each month) is used to provide that home with electricity via hydropower turbines and fossil fuel power plants. That means every time we flip on the television or crank up the air conditioning, it sends more potable water down the drain.

Although coal, nuclear power, and natural gas have been touted as the “cheapest” ways to produce electricity, this assessment fails to take water use and consumption into account. The report found that a single MWh of electricity generated by coal withdraws approximately 16,052 gallons of water from the environment and consumes approximately 692 gallons of water. Nuclear power withdraws approximately 14,881 gallons and consumes 572 gallons of water per MWhOn average, while natural gas withdraws approximately 6,484 gallons and consumes approximately 172 gallons of water per MWh of electricity produced (although it likely wastes far more by contaminating local drinking water supplies). Each of these individually is more than the water consumption of wind, solar, geothermal, and solar thermal power generation combined.

electricity-water-footprintAnd the part that’s really shocking: more than a quarter of the water withdrawn by fossil-fuel power plants to cool their generators goes up in steam—the remainder carries pollutants and excess heat into rivers and waterways, causing fish kills and algae blooms.

So not only are fossil fuels contaminating our environment directly by spewing greenhouse gases into the air 24 hours a day, they’re also silently depleting our water supplies, intensifying our drought, and then poisoning the few waterways we have left.

Fossil fuels are as archaic as the rock from which they’re pried. It’s time to enter the 21st century of energy production. It’s time to acknowledge that coal, gas, and nuclear power will not be able to meet the needs of future generations. It’s time to start rebuilding an electrical infrastructure that takes into account its impact on surrounding systems, including water and wildlife. Only then will we be able to ensure a clean, healthy, well-hydrated future for our children.

Related Reading:

Nuclear Energy Just Doesn’t Make Sense!

World Water Crisis 101

14 Ways To Save Water

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11:36AM PDT on Mar 25, 2013

Thank you for sharing.

6:51PM PDT on Jul 14, 2012

A carbon tax would add about 300 billion in revenue for the country. Anyone who decimates our land, air and water MUST pay. I believe there should also be a mandate for these companies to retrofit and begin using at least 30%-40% renewable energy within 8-10 years!
We put a man on the moon why can't we SAVE OUR PLANET??? Haven't found another one like it yet and we better TAKE CARE OF THIS ONE!!!!!!!!!!!! They should also have to pay for healthcare for the people who are suffering from toxins from mining too! MORE class action lawsuits would be wonderful!

7:43AM PDT on Jul 7, 2012

we have to use working fluid other than water, that's the only solution.

6:43AM PDT on Jul 6, 2012

Meanwhile, we also need to invest in massive seawater desalination projects to extract the fresh water we need from seawater. We need that water extracted from seawater to irrigate our fields to replace the rain that we are not getting enough of.

6:41AM PDT on Jul 6, 2012

We need to replace fossil fuel with sustainable energy. However, we need to buy all the fossil fuel displaced by sustainable energy to be kept in the ground right where they are now and pay as much per unit of measure for the reserves to be kept where they are as we would have to pay for them if we had to have them dug up and shipped to the fossil fuel burning electric plants for us. All this just to make it politically feasible to replace fossil fuel with sustainable energy. I know it will make energy cost at least twice as much as it does now, but those fossil fuel firms have us over a barrel because they own the government all bought and paid for, lock, stock, and barrel.

10:29AM PDT on Jul 3, 2012

It's all the stupid republicans fault because they block clean wind, solar, and geothermal energy, and electric cars, because they are bought and paid for by the billionare Koch brothers and dirty fossil fuel interest.

10:29AM PDT on Jul 3, 2012

It's all the stupid republicans fault because they block clean wind, solar, and geothermal energy, and electric cars, because they are bought and paid for by the billionare Koch brothers and dirty fossil fuel interest.

10:28AM PDT on Jul 3, 2012

It's all the stupid republicans fault because they block clean wind, solar, and geothermal energy, and electric cars, because they are bought and paid for by the billionare Koch brothers and dirty fossil fuel interest.

10:28AM PDT on Jul 3, 2012

It's all the stupid republicans fault because they block clean wind, solar, and geothermal energy, and electric cars, because they are bought and paid for by the billionare Koch brothers and dirty fossil fuel interest.

10:27AM PDT on Jul 3, 2012

It's all the stupid republicans fault because they block clean wind, solar, and geothermal energy, and electric cars, because they are bought and paid for by the billionare Koch brothers and dirty fossil fuel interest.

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