Water Scarcity Impacts Energy Production

In the United States the energy sector accounts for approximately 41% of daily fresh water withdrawals and 49% of total overall daily water withdrawals for the following energy-related uses:

  • Hydroelectric power generation
  • Thermoelectric power plant cooling and air emissions control
  • Energy-resource extraction, refining, and processing

The Energy Information Administration projects the U.S. population will grow by 70 million people between 2005 and 2030, increasing electric power demand by 50 percent and transportation fuel demand by 30 percent. This will require more water. Unfortunately, this growth in water demand is occurring at a time when the nation’s fresh water supplies are seeing increasing stress from:

  • Limitations of surface-water storage capacity
  • Increasing depletion and degradation of ground water supplies
  • Increasing demands for the use of surface water for in-stream ecological and environmental uses
  • Uncertainty about the impact of climate variability on future water fresh surface and ground water resources

Project Objectives

The Department of Energy’s Office of Electricity has initiated a $60M program to conduct long-range transmission planning within the Western, Eastern and Texas Interconnections. As a result of this project, planners will assissted in:

  • Siting of new power plants
  • Planning expansion of transmission capacity
  • Expanding utilization of renewables
  • Incorporating environmental concerns into planning process

Western Interconnection Energy-Water Planning Study Led by Sandia National Laboratories

Support for this effort is led by Sandia National Laboratories and is supported by Argonne National Laboratory, Electric Power Research Institute, Idaho National Laboratory, National Renewable Energy Laboratory, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, and the University of Texas. Objectives include:

  1. Develop an Energy-Water Decision Support System (DSS) to enable planners in the Western and Texas Interconnections to analyze the implications of water stress for transmission and resource planning.
  2. Pursue the formulation and development of the Energy-Water DSS through a joint collaboration among the proposal team and the Western Electricity Coordinating Council (WECC), Western Governors’ Association (WGA), the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT).
  3. Use the Energy-Water DSS to investigate water stress implications of the transmission planning scenarios put forward by WECC, WGA, and ERCOT.

Project Tasks

Energy-Water Decision Support System

The Energy-Water Decision Support System is comprised of seven interacting modules:

  1. Thermoelectric Consumptive Use and Power Plants
  2. Non-thermoelectric Water Demand: Calculates water demand from competing use sectors
  3. Water Supply and Institutions: Regional measure of water supply for surface water, groundwater and non-potable resources. Includes wet (physical water available) and paper (policies regarding access)water.
  4. Environmental Vulnerabilities: Identification of potential risks associated with increased water use.
  5. Climate Variability: Estimates potential changes in water availability; includes a climate downscaling model to provide future climate forcing data for the watershed model and a dynamic large-scale watershed model to project changes to water availability.
  6. Water Valuation: Historic value of leased and sold water rights; economic value of water and cost of backstop technology
  7. Energy for Water: Calculates energy used to pump, convey, and treat water and waste water.

Data from Energy-Water Decision Support System (DSS) Tools Informs Decision Maker

The data, models, scenario analyses, and insights derived from this effort will provide a significantly improved body of evidence for policy and decision making at local, state and federal levels, including:

  • Industry Planners,
  • State and Federal Policymakers, and
  • Regulators

In addition, this project will supplement interconnection-wide transmission planning studies with information on water availability, which is critical in shaping electricity generation options.

Energy-Water Data Portal

Energy-Water Data PortalView and download energy and water data collected by this project. Data categories include:

  • Thermoelectric water use
  • Water availability
  • Water cost
  • Other water use and supply data
  • EcoRisk calculator

Report and Articles

Yan, Y. E., Tidwell, V. C., King, C. W., Cook, M. A., Demissie, Y. K., Harto, C. B., Wigmosta, M. S., Coleman, A., Tesfa, T. K., Moreland, B. D., Zemlikc, C. M., Roberts, B. L., 2013. Impact of Future Climate Variability on ERCOT Thermoelectric Power Generation.

Tidwell, V.C., Moreland, B.D., Zemlick, K.M., Roberts, B.L., Passell, H.D., Jensen, D., Forsgren, C., Sehlke, G., Cook, M.A., King, C.W., Larsen, S., 2014. Mapping Water Availability and Cost in the Western United States, Environmental Research Letters, 9(6), 064009.

Yan, E., Y. Demissie, M. Wigmosta, V. Tidwell, C. King, 2013. “Potential drought impacts on electricity generation in Texas“, Proceedings of the ASME 2013 Power Conference, pp. V002T10A008: 1-5.

Harto, C., T. Kimell, D. Elcock, “Estimating Annual Water Consumption for Fossil Fuel Production in the Western US“, soon to be submitted to Environmental Science and Technology Letters.

Zemlick, K., V.C. Tidwell, B.L. Roberts and C.R. Castillo, Suitability assessment of non-potable water to meet the electricity generation demands in 2030, Journal of Contemporary Water Research and Education, 151, 95-105, 2013.

Yan, E.Y., V.C. Tidwell, C.W. King, M.A. Cook, Y.K. Demissie, C.B. Harto, M.S. Wigmosta, A. Coleman, T.K. Tesfa, B.D. Moreland, C.M. Zemlick and B.L. Roberts, “Impact of Future Climate Variability on ERCOT Themoelectric Power Generation“.

Tidwell, V.C., Passell, H.D., Moreland, B. and Castillo, C., 2011. Energy-Water Analysis of the 10-Year WECC Transmission Planning Study Cases, SAND2011-7281, Sandia National Laboratories, Albuquerque, NM.

Harto, C.B. and Yan, Y.E., 2011, Analysis of Drought Impacts on Electricity Production in the Western and Texas Interconnections of the United States, ANL/EVS/R-11/14, Argonne National Laboratory, Argonne, IL.

Conference Presentations

Yan, E., Gaspar, J., Tidwell, V., Wigmosta, M., and King, C., Impacts of Potential Future Drought on Thermoelectricity Generation, Groundwater Protection Council Annual Forum 2013, St. Louis, Missouri, September 23-25, 2013.

Yan, E., Wigmosta, M., Tidwell, V., and King, C., Impacts of Potential Future Droughts on Electricity Generation, Abstract H11J-1277, presented at 2012 Fall Meeting, AGU, San Francisco, Calif., December 9-13 2013.

Harto, C.B., 2012, “Energy and Water in the Western and Texas Interconnections,” presented at the DOE Electric Reliability and Drought Workshop, Denver, CO, July 25-26.

Harto, C.B., Y.E. Yan, and V.C. Tidwell, 2012, “Risk to Electricity Generation from Drought in the Western United States”, presented at the Energy Utility, and Environment Conference, Phoenix AZ, January 30-February 1.

Tidwell, V.C., 2012.  Energy and Water in the Western and Texas Interconnections, Fall Meeting of the Western States Water Council, San Antonio, TX, October 11, 2012.

Related Documents

Tidwell, V.C., Macknick, J., Zemlick, K., Sanchez, J., Woldeyesus, T., Transitioning to zero freshwater withdrawl in the U.S. for Thermoelectric Generation, Applied Energy, in press, 2014.

Tidwell, V.C., Malczynski, L.A., Kobos, P.H., G. Klise, E. Shuster, Potential impacts of electric power production utilizing natural gas, renewables and carbon capture and sequestration on U.S. freshwater resources, Environmental Science and Technology, in press, 2013.

Tidwell, V.C., Kobos, P.H., L.A. Malczynski, G. Klise, C.R. Castillo, Exploring the water-thermoelectric power nexus, Journal of Water Planning and Management, 138(5), 491-501, 2012.

Pacsi, A.P., Sanders, K.T., Webber, M.E., Allen, D.T., Spatial and temporal impacts on water consumption in Texas from shale gas development and use, ACS Sustainable Chemistry & Engineering, 2014.

Principal Investigator

Vincent Tidwell
PO Box 5800; MS 1137
Albuquerque, NM 87185

Project Partners

Organization Point of Contact
Argonne National Laboratory John Gasper
Electric Power Research Institute Robert Goldstein
Idaho National Laboratory Gerald Sehlke
National Renewable Energy Laboratory Jordan Macknick
Pacific Northwest National Laboratory Mark Wigmosta
University of Texas Michael Webber