In many regions of the world, water use at power plants, predominantly for cooling, has a significant effect on the overall water supply and on the ecological health of surface water bodies. In the US, for example, power plants account for about 3% of freshwater consumption and 40% of freshwater withdrawals. Water constraints increasingly play a role in power plant build, citing, operation, and dispatch decisions.
Power plant water use is highly variable, however, and the relevant data is often unavailable, unreliable, or coarse-grained. This makes life difficult for resource planners, policymakers, and technology developers. We are therefore developing a system-level modeling framework incorporating component-specific knowledge and local climate data to estimate water withdrawal and consumption in power production. We apply these models to assess technology options, economics and policy tradeoffs.