A new study published in Environmental Science & Technology presents detailed estimates for water consumption and withdrawals for the US energy system in 2014. According to the authors, this is “the first known estimate of total water consumption and withdrawal by the US energy system.”
The study found that energy-related water consumption accounts for about 10 percent of total and freshwater US water consumption, primarily from biofuels (via irrigation), oil exploitation (via deep well injection, usually of saline and brackish water) and hydropower (via evaporation and seepage).
The US energy system also accounts for about 40 percent of both total and freshwater water withdrawals. About 70 percent are associated with the once-through cooling systems from approximately 300 steam cycle power plants that produce about 25 percent of US electricity.
Producing electricity from low-carbon wind and solar sources requires almost no water at all.
To learn about the difference between water withdrawals and consumption, go here.