Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)

Legacy Department

Environmental Engineering and Earth Science

Committee Member

Dr. David Ladner, Committee Co-Chair

Committee Member

Dr. Elizabeth Carraway, Committee Co-Chair

Committee Member

Dr. Michael Carbajales-Dale


Water is an essential resource to the thermoelectric power sector, which is the largest user of water in the United States. As water-related issues continue to grow due to drought, climate change, and tension between multiple sectors, it is becoming increasingly important that water resources are considered in long-term energy planning. This study has evaluated projected implications on water resources as energy demand grows and new power plants are built. Capitalizing on recent energy-demand projections from the Eastern Interconnection Planning Collaborative (EIPC) and water availability data from Sandia National Laboratories, we have identified watersheds at highest risk for future water stress due to new-build thermoelectric power plant water withdrawals for three possible future scenarios - 1) a business as usual scenario (designated F1S17 by the EIPC) defined by no new energy or environmental policies or programs at the federal, state or regional level, 2) a scenario (designated F6S10) with national renewable portfolio standards implemented at the regional level, and 3) a federal carbon constraint scenario (designated F8S7). Total thermoelectric capacity increased 7.5% between the year 2011 and 2040 for the business as usual future scenario. Relatively no change in total thermoelectric capacity was observed for the future scenario with regional implementation of national renewable portfolio standards. Finally, a 36.6% decrease in total thermoelectric capacity was seen for the carbon reduction future scenario. While the capacity varied, all three future scenarios yielded a decrease in the total amount of water withdrawn from 2011 through 2040. Nearly all watersheds containing thermoelectric power plants were shown to have less than 10% of the total available water withdrawn for thermoelectric use. Overall, the distribution of new capacity in this study yielded 2 watersheds at-risk of over 10% withdrawal of total water available in the Eastern Interconnection for F1S17, and 3 watersheds at risk of over 10% withdrawal of total available water for both F6S10 and F8S7. This work only includes the investigation of effects on watersheds due to thermoelectric capacity growth and does not consider implications on watersheds due to other water-using sectors.



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