The Impact of Traditional and Alternative Energy Production on Water Resources: Assessment and Adaptation Studies
McDonald, J., J. Yang, T. Keener, M. Lu, P. Biswas, W. Wang, M. Liang, J. Lee, P. Huntra, B. Lingaraju, S. Karunakaran, V. Sriram, Y. Li, Q. Tu, C. White, D. Menon, W. Platten, P. Pinto, AND C. Holder. The Impact of Traditional and Alternative Energy Production on Water Resources: Assessment and Adaptation Studies. U.S. EPA Office of Research and Development, Washington, DC, EPA/600/R-14/272, 2015.
This report is a synthesis of assessment and adaptation studies conducted from 2011-2014 as part of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency - Office of Research and Development - Air Climate and Energy Research Program, Project MA-4 – “Sustainability, Interactions, and Co-benefits”, Task Number 203 – “Regional Adaptation Case Studies for Sustainable Water Resources”. The purpose of this report is to investigate water use for thermoelectric power generation and for the production of biofuels for transportation as competition for water resources becomes more acute as a result of the combined effects of climate change and changing demographics.
Water, fuel and energy issues are intricately related and cannot be addressed in isolation. With increasing population, increasing energy demand, continued migration towards and population growth within water stressed regions of the U.S., and with the continuing impacts of climate change on water availability, scarcity of freshwater will be an issue of paramount importance. Finding alternative water resources to replace freshwater demand for thermoelectric power generation cooling applications is inevitable and urgent. Biofuel production for transportation also have significant water requirements, especially at the cultivation stage. The assessment and adaptation studies that comprise this report investigate and integrate the current knowledge base of water usage in energy production industries. This report focuses on the generation of electricity and the emerging production of biofuels by assessing major trends in thermoelectric power generation and biofuels and investigating future water availability and water allocation for these energy production and energy transformation processes. This report focuses primarily on coal-fired and natural gas-fired electric power plants, the production of corn-starch-based ethanol and cellulosic biofuels, the production of biodiesel, the impacts of all of these processes on water resources and the technologies available to adapt these processes to reduce their impact, particularly in water-stressed regions of the United States. The report includes detailed analyses and water resource adaptation strategies for sustainable energy production including a case study focusing on the water-stressed Southwestern United States using Las Vegas, Nevada as a specific example.