Sandia National Laboratories’ wide-ranging analysis of water vulnerability across the Pacific — including the US, China, Russia and Japan — has identified hundreds of locations where energy production depends upon scarce water supplies. “Mapping Water Consumption for Energy Production Around the Pacific Rim“ was published in Environmental Research Letters. Prepared for the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC), the first-of-its-kind report maps out every power plant, refinery and mine in 21 Asia-Pacific economies that rely on fresh water for energy. Simultaneously, it shows the data in context to regions at high to extreme risk of drought and dwindling natural water supplies.
The report compares demand in 10 energy sectors where fresh water is consumed to produce energy — including thermoelectric and hydroelectric power production; coal, uranium, natural gas and oil extraction; refining of biofuels, oil and natural gas and production of biofuel feedstocks. Among the 21 APEC economies are some of the world’s biggest energy users, where economics, population growth and other factors contribute to mounting water demands. The US alone has more than 1,200 thermoelectric power plants, more than 500 refineries and about 800 mines.
The study identified 32 percent of the 2,511 watersheds consuming fresh water for energy are also characterized as being at high to extreme risk of running out of fresh water. For six of the economies, watersheds at risk represented half or more of all basins consuming water for energy.