Water Resources Professional Project Reports


Katie Zemlick

Document Type

Technical Report

Publication Date



Thermoelectric power generation relies on the creation of a temperature difference between the heat source and heat sink. Most often the heat sink is water which means that power generation requires significant quantities of water. Inland power plants use fresh water, a resource that is becoming increasingly limited in the United States. Thermoelectric plants currently supply nearly 90% of the US demand for electricity. By 2030 thermoelectric consumption is projected to increase by 42 to 63% (NETL 2008) and nearly half of the new 1163 billion kilowatt-hour (kWh) demand will occur in the southern and western regions of the country(EIA 2011). This anticipated growth in demand for electricity will place further stress on surface- and groundwater resources that in most river basins in the western United States are already fully utilized. This study identifies non-potable water resources in the form of effluent from wastewater treatment facilities and brackish groundwater sources in a study area comprised of seventeen western states. The suitability of treated wastewater was determined using the volume of effluent available, its quality, and the land characteristics around the treatment plant that would be accessible for a new power plant. Brackish groundwater resources were estimated using USGS well log data in order to understand the general distribution, depth and quality of this resource. After characterization, the estimated costs pertaining to the capture, treatment and distribution of these non-potable sources were calculated and compared. This assessment is a component of Energy-Water Decision Support System (DSS), a product of the project entitled Energy and Water in the Western and Texas Interconnects. This overarching study was implemented by scientists at Sandia National Laboratories, and funded by the Department of Energy's Office of Electricity. It is intended to perform analyses at the watershed scale to support long-term integrated water and electricity planning in the Western Electric Coordinating Council (WECC) and the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT). The water availability and economical assessment generated by this study was compiled in ArcGIS 10 and displayed ArcMap format. It allows users to identify non-potable water resources and costs associated with use and assess their suitability within the larger, multi-dimensional analysis that comprises the DSS.

Language (ISO)



Thermoelectric generators--Water-supply., Industrial water-supply--West (U.S.), Water supply--West (U.S.), Water reuse--West(U.S.), Groundwater--West (U.S.)


A professional project report submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Water Resources, Water Resources Program, University of New Mexico.