Water and energy are closely linked. The water industry is energy-intensive, consuming electricity for desalination, pumping, and treatment of wastewater. The energy industry is also water-intensive, which is the focus of this report. Water is used for resource extraction (oil, gas, coal, biomass etc.), energy conversion (refining and processing), transportation and power generation. Energy accounts for 27% of all water consumed in the United States outside the agricultural sector (Electric Power Research Institute 2008). Water, like energy, is a commodity but with very different characteristics. Water is almost always local where energy tends to be more of a global sector, linked to fungible commodities. Constraints on water availability often influence the choice of technology, sites, and types of energy facilities. For instance, water has always been a potential constraint for thermal electricity generation, given the large volumes of water typically required for cooling. Water availability is thus of paramount importance when deciding on a suitable location of a power plant. This paper provides an overview of water consumption for different sources of energy, including extraction, processing and conversion of resources, fuels, and technologies. The primary focus of is consumptive use of water for different sources of energy. Where appropriate, levels of water withdrawals are also discussed, especially in the context of cooling of thermoelectric power plants.


Mielke, Erik, Laura Diaz Anadon, and Venkatesh Narayanamurti. "Water Consumption of Energy Resource Extraction, Processing, and Conversion." Energy Technology Innovation Policy Research Group Discussion Paper 2010-15, Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, Harvard Kennedy School, October 2010.