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Water Use for Energy

Clean Energy Policies Save Water

  • Western Resource Advocates works to advance clean energy throughout the West. The clean energy policies enacted over the five year period from 2006 - 2010 now save an estimated 6.3 billion gallons per year, or enough to meet the annual needs of approximately 78,000 households. And, clean energy decisions or investments in 2011 and 2012 will almost certainly increase that number. In fact, water use by the electricity sector in the Interior West is now on the decline. For more, see WRA's 2012 report, A Powerful Thirst.

The water intensity of electricity generation varies considerably, depending on the fuel source and the technology used. Many renewable sources of energy like wind, solar PV, geothermal, and certain types of concentrating solar power consume negligible amounts of water.

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Fossil fueled power plants use a tremendous volume of water in the Intermountain West. In the Colorado River basin alone, power plants consume over 167,000 AF of water each year. Scores of other plants rely on groundwater or surface supplies in other watersheds.

Colorado River: Water Use for Power Generation

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Finding Alternatives that Protect the West's Water Resources

As water in the West becomes scarcer, its value will undoubtedly rise. Today, most electric utilities do not adequately value water when they create their future resource plans. And although most regulators in western states have the authority to value water in evaluating utilities' resource plans, most do not. WRA evaluated the prices cities, farmers, electric utilities, and environmental interests are willing to pay for water in the West. Understanding the value of water - both today and in the future - is an important step toward better integration of water issues in electric resource planning. In Every Drop Counts, WRA highlights the opportunities for utilities and regulators throughout the region to better integrate water into resource planning processes.