This study examines water demand data for Texas’ coal-fired power plants; and potential water saving from conversion to electrical power generating technologies that use less water. The first section of this report provides a review of available data sources on water use and water estimation methodologies. Using best available information, water use by Texas coal plants is 279,451 acre-feet per year, based on 2005 electrical generation rates.
The second section quantifies water savings that could be achieved by converting existing coal-fired power plants to alternative, water-conserving technologies. Recognizing the challenges of reliably meeting base-load demands, and the realities of capital and regulatory limitations, currently available technologies have the capacity to generate electricity using almost no water. The potential water savings from converting to these technologies could be as much as the entire 279,000 acre-feet per year demand.
The third section discusses statewide regional water planning, coal-fired power plants water demands within the context of regional water demands, and potential water savings in each region to be gained from switching to alternative power generating technologies.
Significant findings of this report include:
- Data on water usage by steam-electric power plants in Texas are incomplete and inconsistent. Better recordkeeping and reporting on power plant water use would improve regional and state water planning efforts.
- Coal-fired steam-electric power generation places a high demand on the state’s water supply compared to several alternative power generation technologies. Meeting electrical demand with technologies demanding less water would preserve water supplies for alternatives uses and provide a more reliable electrical power system during drought.
- Converting electric power generation to water-saving technologies has the greatest value in regions of Texas where water supplies are limited and steam-electric power generation rates are high. Brazos Region G is the best example of a region in Texas with both a high projected future demand for water for steam electric and a large gap between water supplies and demands.
Building a water-efficient electric generation infrastructure not only conserves valuable water supplies. It also provides an electric power system that is reliable in the face of Texas’ variable weather conditions.
About the Lone Star Chapter, Sierra Club
“The Lone Star Chapter of the Sierra Club is an outdoor recreation and conservation organization representing approximately 24,000 Texans and 10 regional groups from Big Bend to Beaumont.
Our State Conservation Office, located near the State Capitol in Austin, serves as a lobbying office and grassroots communications center supporting advocacy and education about our environmental priorities: Beyond Coal to Clean Energy, Clean Energy Solutions, Green Transportation, Safeguarding Communities, Clean Air & Water, A Texas Land & Wildlife Legacy, Water for People & the Environment. The Lone Star Chapter of the Sierra Club values diversity and promotes environmental education and environmental justice in our efforts to fulfill our mission to explore, enjoy, and protect our Texas natural heritage and to protect public health.”