Energy/Water Nexus

Burning Our Rivers: The Water Footprint of Electricity

Kiran Pereira
Started by Kiran Pereira on
29 Dec 2012 at 06:52
Know-how: Climate Change & Sustainability Services, Sustainable Development , Business Strategy, Policy Analysis & Adaptation, Water-Energy Nexus

Hello all,

Did you know?

  • 'for every gallon of residential water used in an average household, five times more is used to provide that home with electricity via hydropower turbines and fossil fuel power plants' 
  • 'The water footprint of electricity is highest for hydropower: each day, enough water to meet the demands of more than 50 million people evaporates from reservoirs behind hydroelectric dams.'
  • 'electricity production by coal, nuclear and natural gas power plants is the fastest-growing use of freshwater in the U.S., accounting for more than about ½ of all fresh, surface water withdrawals from rivers and lakes. This is more than any other economic sector, including agriculture, and occurs in an era when all other use sectors are reducing water withdrawals.' 
  • 'experimental “clean coal” technologies are only expected to significantly increase water use.'
  • 'More than a quarter of the water withdrawn by fossil-fuel power plants to cool their generators goes up in steam; the remainder carries pollutants and excess heat into rivers and waterways, causing fish kills and algae blooms.'

Download the report @ . Plenty of food for thought there.

Although this study is based in the US, it could serve as a very useful guide for other countries too. I invite those who know of similar reports for other economies, particularly developing economies to share their views/knowledge here...

Wishing each of you a very happy 2013. Let's work together to understand this complex topic better and spread the word about its significance to our future.




Muhammad Abbas Khan
Very nice Kiran agreed
Kiran Pereira
Thank you Manjiri for reading and commenting :)and thank you for sharing those links Samuel. Your presentation is particularly interesting. However, many of the slides are in French. Would be great if you could share an English version too for the benefit of our readers who do not speak French.
Kiran Pereira
As Samuel has rightly pointed out, private players too have begun to realize the worth of water as this example shows...
Phones are indispensable in our modern lives. Water is embedded not only in the manufacture and supply of phones but also in their usage.The 21st century digital economy and lifestyle is supported by cooling technologies that often rely on...surprise, surprise... Water!
Read about how AT&T and Environmental Defense Fund Are Working To Reduce Water Use @
Samuel Vionnet
Hi all,

This is indeed an important insight that is slowly being understood by people and key stakeholders in the private and public sector. The water we used in our houses is almost negligible in most situations compared to the amount of water needed to grow our food, produce the materials we consume and produce the energy (electricity included).

The Water Footprint Network has done extensive studies on this particular subject, showing that not only peoples have an "indirect" water consumption but countries too, relying on water resources from other countries:

In regards to electricity in particular, a publication provide the "water footprint" of electricity production worldwide at country level: . Many publications exists on the subject, this one being a good start.

When assessing the water footprint of products, even agriculture based products can have a significant water footprint coming from energy (like milk powder produced in Colombia, see presentation done by myself recently, slide 9 and 10: ).

Wish you all the best for 2013 !

Manjiri  Maslekar
What a wonderful article Kiran all countries should learn from these findings.
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