Water Stress on U.S. Power Production at Decadal Time Horizons

Monday, 15 December 2014
Poulomi Ganguli1, Devashish Kumar1, Janet Yun1, Geoffrey Short2, James Klausner3 and Auroop R Ganguly1, (1)Northeastern University, Civil and Environmental Engineering, Boston, MA, United States, (2)Booz Allen Hamilton Inc., Washington D.C., United States, (3)Advanced Research Projects Agency – Energy (ARPA-E), United States Department of Energy, Washington D.C., United States
Thermoelectric power production at risk, owing to current and projected water scarcity and rising stream temperatures, is assessed for the continental United States (US) at decadal scales. Regional water scarcity is driven by climate variability and change, as well as by multi-sector water demand. While a planning horizon of zero to about thirty years is occasionally prescribed by stakeholders, the challenges to risk assessment at these scales include the difficulty in delineating decadal climate trends from intrinsic natural or multiple model variability. Current generation global climate or earth system models are not credible at the spatial resolutions of power plants, especially for surface water quantity and stream temperatures, which further exacerbates the assessment challenge. Population changes, which are anyway difficult to project, cannot serve as adequate proxies for changes in the water demand across sectors. The hypothesis that robust assessments of power production at risks are possible, despite the uncertainties, has been examined as a proof of concept. An approach is presented for delineating water scarcity and temperature from climate models, observations and population storylines, as well as for assessing power production at risk by examining geospatial correlations of power plant locations within regions where the usable water supply for energy production happens to be scarcer and warmer.

Acknowledgment: Funding provided by US DOE’s ARPA-E through Award DE-AR0000374.