Study Finds that Power Plants Threaten Watersheds

According to a new report by the Union of Concerned Scientists and independent experts, an energy-water collision may be looming. As an example, the report quotes Kent Saathoff, a vice president of the Electric Reliability Council of Texas. In October he said, “If we don’t get any rain between now and next summer, there could be several thousand megawatts of generators that won’t have sufficient cooling water to operate next summer.” In this regard Texas may offer a preview of what happens in a warming world. As another example, in 2007 there were blackouts in parts of North Carolina because a drought affected the Catawba River. “The thirst of the region’s power plants became incompatible with what the river had to give,” the report said. To complicate matters, not enough is known about how much water power plants use and how the discharge affects the local environment. The researchers contended that both the water shortage and the lack of information will become more problematic. In addition, in the not-too-distant future, they say, a growing population is likely to want more air-conditioning than the electrical grid can supply because there will not be enough water available to cool thermoelectric plants.