As droughts grip parts of the USA, and temperatures rise, water becomes more precious. Conserving water is becoming the top priority in some parts of the nation, and communities across our land pay growing attention to how water is used.
The U.S. Geologic Survey found that power plants use 53% of water withdrawn for human use from freshwater, surface sources. www.rivernetwork.org/sites/default/files/BurningOurRivers_0.pdf at page 5. No other use of water comes close to the water needed to operate nuclear, coal, gas, solar thermal, and geothermal plants.
But not all power sources have equal thirsts. For example, wind and solar PV require none, a major operating and economic advantage for areas where water supply is constrained.
Compared to power plants, gas production accounts for much less of the water withdrawn daily in Pennsylvania. Water withdrawals amount to less than 1% of the water withdrawn and rank 10th out of the 10 major uses in the Commonwealth.
Having said that, it is also important to state that water withdrawn for gas production should be regulated. In Pennsylvania, it is.
A driller must file a water plan with the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection at the time an application to drill is made. The plan must specify where from where will the water be withdrawn and how much. It is approved only if the amount of the withdrawal would damage the stream in times of drought.
The Susquehanna River Basin Commission also provides another layer of regulation in its area. It orders the suspension of water withdrawals when stream flows drop below certain levels. It has issued such orders currently to gas drillers and other water users.