Georgia Review on Energy and Water in a Warming World Report

This blog was written by Sara Barczak, former Regional Advocacy Director with the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy.

Guest Blog | November 21, 2011 | Coal, Energy Policy, Nuclear

To follow our recent blog post about activities in North Carolina last week surrounding the release of the Energy and Water in a Warming World (EW3) initiative’s new report, Freshwater Use by U.S. Power Plants: Electricity’s Thirst for a Precious Resource, here’s a look-back on our events in Georgia. Why release such a report in Georgia? As many recall, during the 2007 summer Georgia experienced one of its worst droughts in over a century, aggravating both inter- and intra-state water wars along with implementation of crisis measures to conserve limited supplies. And in December 2007, Georgia’s Drought Response Unified Command (DRUC) highlighted the water-energy connection, issuing a statewide press release that stated:

DRUC encourages Georgians to help save water by conserving electricity. Large amounts of water are required to generate electricity. In Georgia, each kilowatt hour (kWh) of electricity production consumes 1.65 gallons of water according to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory. To put it in context, the average Georgia household’s electricity use is 1,148 kilowatt hours per month, requiring 1,894 gallons of water to generate.

For many, that was the first time they heard that turning on the lights or watching TV had anything to do with a power plant using water to generate electricity. The electricity sector is the largest water user in Georgia and as drought conditions continue we felt it was important to highlight the water-energy connection as outlined in this new report, which provides the first systematic assessment of both power plants’ effects on water resources across the country and the quality of information available to help public- and private-sector decision makers make water-smart energy choices.

During the week, I toured with John Rogers, a senior analyst with the Union of Concerned Scientists and co-author of the report; Annette Huber-Lee, a research assistant professor and lecturer in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Tufts University; and April Ingle, executive director of Georgia River Network.

A jam-packed week was filled meeting with regulators, academia, the media and the public. A visit with the Environmental Protection Division provided an opportunity to discuss the future of Georgia’s water resources in terms of future energy demand. A community gathering at Southface in Atlanta offered an opportunity to present to and talk with those hoping to promote low-water and low-carbon energy options, such as solar and wind, in Georgia.

A host of issues were discussed with academic researchers across the state. While at Georgia Tech, we met with several faculty members including Dr. Marilyn Brown, known for her work on energy efficiency, an inherently water-saving energy option, and also a current member of the TVA board. Georgia Southern allowed for an excellent web-conferencing option for those who could not attend in person and provided a forum to discuss water-guzzling new power plant proposals such as the Plant Washington coal plant near Sandersville that would impact the Oconee and Ogeechee rivers, not to mention groundwater resources, and the two proposed Vogtle reactors in Burke County along the Savannah River.

Report experts also had a chance to meet those working on the ground to protect Georgia’s water resources, such as Dianna Wedincamp, the Ogeechee Riverkeeper. In Athens, we were able to meet with a diverse array of academics and participate in an extremely informational symposium organized by the Georgia Climate Change Coalition.

We greatly appreciated everyone’s interest in Georgia and generosity in sharing their time to talk with us further about their thoughts and concerns regarding water and energy, both now and in the future. We are at a crucial crossroads in making wise, energy and water-smart decisions that will impact the future of Georgia and our region.

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