On World Water Day, Recognizing the Water and Energy Nexus

March 22, 2010 at 8:27 pm 3 comments

Growing up in Florida, I probably spent 75% of my childhood in and around water. Be it swimming in clear cool springs, fishing along black bottom creeks, playing in the crashing waves of the Atlantic Ocean or just running through the sprinkler in the backyard, water played a huge role in my childhood.

I didn’t really think much about water beyond how fun it was to go to Kingsley Lake or tube down the Ichetucknee River. As I got older, I became more aware of the impacts we have on our local waterways and how much our lives depend on them -not just for staying cool in the summer time, but for our overall survival and livelihood.

It wasn’t until my family moved to Georgia when I was in middle school that I realized the threats facing Southern water resources. As I have grown older, I’ve become increasingly aware of how important, yet fragile our waters truly are. I remember all too well driving back home for a visit in the summer of 2007 (I was living and working in New Orleans at the time).  It was surreal to see the impacts of the drought – to witness what were once floating dock sitting on the mud flats of a shrinking Lake Lanier. That same summer, the Browns Ferry nuclear power plant in Alabama had to be temporarily shut down because water in the Tennessee River was too hot to cool the reactors. And then in the fall the University of Georgia had official “flushers” in bathrooms at football games in order conserve limited water supplies in Athens.

Today, on World Water Day, it’s important to look at the full impacts dirty energy and global warming have on our lives. Across the world and particularly here in the South, global warming is shifting rain patterns and temperatures. Creating an interesting mix of increased rain (except in South Florida) as well as prolonged and more severe droughts.

Not only is our region one of the largest contributors to the problem of global warming, our power is extremely water intensive. For example, here in Georgia the energy sector is the largest consumer of water statewide. It’s troubling to think that one day flipping on the lights could compete with turning on the faucet.

For the future of our region, it’s critical to begin the transition away from dirty, water intensive power sources and towards a cleaner, more sustainable energy future.

In celebration of World Water Day, take time to support the Define Our Decade campaign, and vote for a clean, renewable, water-responsible energy future.


Entry filed under: florida, georgia, southeast, southern energy network.

Hey North Carolina: Let Wind Energy Define our Decade Working to Stop New Nukes: DC Days with the Alliance for Nuclear Accountability

3 Comments Add your own

  • 1. rmarg  |  March 23, 2010 at 1:06 pm

    Just a few quick points:

    1) Nuclear units shut down not because the cooling water is too hot thermodynamically, but due to environmental regulations limiting how much of a temperature difference is allowed by the power plant. A coal, gas, or solar thermal plant would have the same limitation if they used river water.

    2) Lake Lanier is an artificial lake that was purposefully designed amongst other things to support power production:


    Many of the lakes in the Southeast used for plant cooling were artificial lakes created for that purpose.

    3) There is a difference between water consumed (i.e., evaporated) and mere throughput that returns the water to the reservoir. River cooling has high throughputs and small amounts of evaporation. Cooling towers have lower throughputs but high evaporation (e.g., Palo Verde runs in the Arizona desert on lower amounts of reclaimed water due to cooling towers). This is true for any thermal plant be it nuclear, fossil, or solar thermal. You can air cool plants, but you will lose thermal efficiency in doing so.

  • 2. JMG  |  March 23, 2010 at 4:27 pm

    @rmarg – interesting points, but I don’t think any of these really address the big picture of the blog post. Yes, Lake Lanier is an artificial lake, but now it has a significant legacy around outdoor recreation, and rainfall is important to maintaining the water levels in the lake, whether that be for recreation or cooling plants or supplying drinking water (Lake Lanier does that, too!). There are plenty of other natural lakes and large ponds in Georgia whose water levels have dropped tremendously due to drought conditions, and the area residents are well aware of the causes.

    Finally, yes, there is a difference between through-put and evaporation. It’s really disingenous to suggest that through-put has zero environmental consequences. Heated river water is dumped back in to the water way, often at temperatures much too hot to sustain life. The aquatic environment is affected. There’s no way around this. You might say our energy needs are more important than the creatures living in our waterways, but not everyone agrees.

    The most important point is this: WE CAN SIGNIFICANTLY REDUCE OUR ENERGY CONSUMPTION through energy efficiency and conservation. That means we don’t need any more new coal or nuclear plants, and it means revitalizing our local economy through weatherizing and retrofitting jobs. We must recognize the importance of treating all our natural resources with respect, and especially using our water resources responsibly in a drought-prone region.

    • 3. rmarg  |  March 29, 2010 at 10:59 am

      I was trying to make the basic point that ALL thermal based power plants (including solar thermal) are in the same fix. Even if you cut our energy use in half, there still remains ~500 GW to supply with mostly thermal methods. Even the solar thermal plant will heat the water.


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