Earlier this week I had the pleasure of working in Charlotte, NC with Dr. Peter Frumhoff, Director of Science and Policy with the Union of Concerned Scientists, to release the new Energy and Water in a Warming World Initiative (EW3) report, Freshwater Use by U.S. Power Plants. Peter is one of the key advisers to the report and brought an expert presence to a critical issue that doesn’t currently garner enough attention in our energy debates. SACE also partnered with the Catawba Riverkeeper Foundation to ensure that local expertise on water issues was represented in the series of meetings and events that we held.
Why did we go to Charlotte? As it turns out, North Carolina is home to two of the nation’s most significantly power plant-stressed waterways – the Dan River Basin and the Catawba River Basin – so, it made sense to us to spend time in the area of most impact.
These watersheds are experiencing unusually high levels of supply stress as a result of all the water withdrawals and high-temperature water returns from once-through cooled power plants located along these waterways. In the Southeast, power plants account for two-thirds of all water usage. For a region of the country that is experiencing new stresses from drought and higher summer temperatures, this information is an opportunity to jump-start new dialogues about the collisions we could face – and are already facing – between our water and energy needs.
Monday, Nov. 14, 2011: Aurana Lewis, Duke University Master’s student at the Nicholas School and one of the UCS report authors presented to the Mountain Island Lake Covekeepers. These Covekeepers oversee the health of a critical water body in the Catawba watershed – this lake provides drinking water to the entire metropolitan area of Charlotte and Mecklenburg counties – nearly 1.6 Million people.
Tuesday, Nov. 15, 2011: We were fortunate to get some excellent air-time on the report with a full hour radio interview on Charlotte’s premier NPR talk show, Charlotte Talks. Host Mike Collins invited Dr. Frumhoff, David Merryman the Catawba Riverkeeper, and two Duke Energy representatives to speak. Listen to the full interview here!
Later that same day we hosted a press conference on Lake Wylie and received an excellent presence from local television, print, and radio media despite the blustery weather conditions. Illustrating some of the water and energy collisions that we were there to talk about, Lake Wylie is home to Duke Energy’s Allen coal-fired power plant and the Catawba Nuclear Station. One of the findings of this new report is that Duke Energy has the largest water withdrawal intensity of any other utility company in the country! We also had an opportunity to sit down with Duke Energy staff and discuss the report findings and related issues.
Wednesday, Nov. 16, 2011: On our last day in the Catawba River Basin we traveled to Rock Hill, SC to meet with state Senator Hayes and discuss his interest in the report findings as it relates to South Carolina water-energy issues. The Senator sits on the Catawba-Wateree Bi-state Commission, a group that could be very influential in future assurances that the region has sufficient water supply and quality – for all uses.
Meanwhile, in Durham, my colleague Josh Galperin was presenting the report to a Duke University conference on Southeastern energy challenges. The Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions hosted the conference and brought together experts on energy and the environment, making this a great opportunity to share the findings with many of the Southeast’s leading energy thinkers. Attendees included utility representatives, state government policy-makers and EPA Region IV Deputy Administrator Stan Meiburg.
The following day Josh traveled to Raleigh with Professor Rob Jackson, a member of the report’s scientific advisory committee, and Aurana Lewis to meet with North Carolina decision makers at the Department of Environment and Natural Resource and the North Carolina Utilities Commission.
All in all it was a great week and our colleague Sara Barczak was busy in Georgia with a similar slate of activities with other UCS staff and experts! Stay tuned for her story and for a wrap-up of all the great media hits we tallied up throughout the region. We’re thankful to UCS for this opportunity to discuss the critical nexus between water and energy in the Southeast – and there’s more to come in phases 2 and 3 of this EW3 initiative.