Cooling power plants requires the single largest share of U.S. freshwater withdrawals: 41 percent. This water dependence threatens both the availability and the quality of our water resources. . . . The water use habits of power plants pose risks, not only to the water sources and to other users, but also to the power plants themselves. When adequate cooling water is not available to fossil fuel, nuclear, and other steam-generating plants due, for example, to prolonged drought or high water temperatures caused by a heat wave, the plants have to cut back power production or even shut down.
The Union of Concerned Scientists is the leading science-based nonprofit working for a healthy environment and a safer world. This article was first published by the Union of Concerned Scientists on 2 June 2011; it is reproduced here for non-profit educational purposes.
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