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Location and water consumption of thermal power plants.

Map description and dataset provided by: Center for Environmental Systems Research (CESR), Kassel, Germany

DescriptionWater Consumption of Power Plants

Thermal Power plants deliver electricity for the population and its economic activity, they tend to be situated near population centers; because of their large water requirements, they also are usually sited near large waterways or other bodies of water. This map vividly shows the intensity of water consumed for power production in Europe and North America as compared to the rest of the world.


But by far the greatest need for water comes from the cooling of turbines in the power plant. The amount of water required depends on the type and size of power plant, and especially on the kind of cooling. The two main types are "once-through cooling", in which water is used to cool the turbines and then discharged directly back to a waterway or pond, and "tower cooling" in which the turbines are cooled and the hot water is sent to a cooling tower, reused several times, and eventually discharged from the plant. One of the advantages of tower cooling is that water is discharged back to waterways at a much cooler temperatures, thereby protecting aquatic ecosystems and downstream water uses. Another advantage is that it allows the recycling of water within the power plant, and this means that tower cooling requires less than three percent of the water withdrawals of once-through cooling (per unit energy produced). Although tower cooling requires much lower withdrawals, it consumes twice as much water per unit energy as once-through cooling because much more water is evaporated in the cooling towers.


The dataset for this map was provided by: Joseph Alcamo, Center for Environmental Systems Research (CESR), Kassel, Germany


The dataset was developed for the World Water Assessment Report (to be included in Report Chapter IV. Current State of the World's Freshwater and Ecosystems. Section 2. Needs, Uses, and Demands. ("Water and energy"). The data is representing an output of the Water GAP model version 2.1D.


Please cite this map as: "GWSP Digital Water Atlas (2008). Map 1: Water Consumption of Power Plants (V1.0). Available online at http://atlas.gwsp.org."

Contact Information

For further information please contact: Frank Voss or Martina Flörke, Center for Environmental Systems Research, Kurt-Wolter-Str.3, 34109 Kassel, This e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it or This e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it ; Phone: +49.561.804.3902, Fax: +49.561.804.3076

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