This week was no different, as I couldn't help but notice that one of the studies was being proffered by Benjamin Sovacool, a long-time anti-nuclear activist, as well as the Vermont Law School, folks that we've tangled with before.
With that in mind, I reached out to NEI's Bill Skaff, our resident expert on nuclear energy and water use. Here's what he had to say.
We know of no reputable climate change modeling that finds any potential U.S. drinking water scarcity to be the result of power plant operations. In fact, electricity makes possible the purification and pumping necessary to produce potable water. Moreover, electricity will be essential in the future to desalinate seawater and brackish groundwater to augment drinking water supplies.Thanks to Bill for taking the time to answer my questions. For more on water use and holistic environmental management, please visit our website.
Here are some other facts to consider that provide some needed context that the news coverage this week has omitted. According to the U.S. Geological Survey, Estimated Use of Water in the United States in 1995, the last USGS study to consider water consumption nationwide:
- Electric power sector water consumption represents only 3.3 percent of the nation's water consumption.
- Residential water consumption, at 6.7 percent, is more than twice power sector consumption.
The Electric Power Research Institute, in a 2002 study, found that 98 percent of water withdrawn by the electric power sector is returned to the source water bodies.
- Agricultural water consumption is 81.3 percent, 17 percent of which is water lost during conveyance that never reaches the crops it is intended to irrigate.
The electric power industry, in partnership with businesses, universities, and the National Science Foundation, is supporting over a dozen research projects to develop power plant cooling technologies designed to reduce water consumption in the future.
Photo Credit: Shot of running water by Flickr user Richard Smith. Photo used under Creative Commons license.