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Scientific Investigations Report 2014–5184

A product of the USGS National Water Census and the USGS National Streamflow Information Program

Withdrawal and Consumption of Water by Thermoelectric Power Plants in the United States, 2010

By Timothy H. Diehl and Melissa A. Harris

Thumbnail of and link to report PDF (2.1 MB)Abstract

Estimates of water use at thermoelectric plants were developed by the U.S. Geological Survey based on linked heat and water budgets, and complement reported thermoelectric water withdrawals and consumption. The heat- and water-budget models produced withdrawal and consumption estimates, including thermodynamically plausible ranges of minimum and maximum withdrawal and consumption, for 1,290 water-using plants in the United States for 2010. Total estimated withdrawal for 2010 was about 129 billion gallons per day (Bgal/d), and total estimated consumption was about 3.5 Bgal/d. In contrast, total withdrawal reported by the U.S. Department of Energy, Energy Information Administration (EIA), was about 24 percent higher than the modeled estimates, and total EIA-reported consumption was about 8 percent lower. Most thermoelectric generation in 2010 was not associated with thermodynamically plausible EIA-reported values of both withdrawal and consumption.

An analysis of 2005 and 2010 EIA-reported water use indicated that withdrawal and consumption declined 18 percent and 34 percent, respectively. Alternative water types (types other than freshwater) accounted for approximately 25 percent of all withdrawals in 2010, most of which occurred at plants with once-through cooling systems using saline and brackish tidal waters. Differences among withdrawal and consumption coefficients based on EIA-reported water use for 2005 and 2010 and heat-budget model results for 2010 reveal opportunities for improving consistency and accuracy of reporting of water-use information at the plant scale.

First posted September 24, 2014

Revised November 10, 2014

  • Appendix 1 XLSX (0.3 MB)
    (Excel file providing estimated and reported water withdrawals and consumption for 1,290 thermoelectric plants in the United States, 2010)

For additional information, contact:
Eric J. Evenson
Coordinator—National Water Census
U.S. Geological Survey
3450 Princeton Pike, Suite 110
Lawrenceville, NJ 08648

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Suggested citation:

Diehl, T.H., and Harris, M.A., 2014, Withdrawal and consumption of water by thermoelectric power plants in the United States, 2010: U.S. Geological Survey Scientific Investigations Report 2014–5184, 28 p.,

ISBN 978-1-4113-3851-7
ISSN 2328-0328 (online)
ISSN 2328-031X (print)





Results and Discussion


Selected References


Appendix 1. Estimated and Reported Water Withdrawals and Consumption for 1,290 Thermoelectric Plants in the United States, 2010 (Excel file)

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