Geographic, Technologic, And Economic Analysis of Using Reclaimed Water for Thermoelectric Power Plant Cooling

A.S. Stillwell, M.E. Webber, March 2014 (Citation)


Use of reclaimed water—municipal wastewater treatment plant effluent—in nonpotable applications can be a sustainable and efficient water management strategy. One such nonpotable application is at thermoelectric power plants since these facilities require cooling, often using large volumes of freshwater. To evaluate the geographic, technologic, and economic feasibility of using reclaimed water to cool thermoelectric power plants, we developed a spatially resolved model of existing power plants. Our model integrates data on power plant and municipal wastewater treatment plant operations into a combined geographic information systems and optimization approach to evaluate the feasibility of cooling system retrofits. We applied this broadly applicable methodology to 125 power plants in Texas as a test case. Results show that sufficient reclaimed water resources exist within 25 miles of 92 power plants (representing 61% of capacity and 50% of generation in our sample), with most of these facilities meeting both short-term and long-term water conservation cost goals. This retrofit analysis indicates that reclaimed water could be a suitable cooling water source for thermoelectric power plants, thereby mitigating some of the freshwater impacts of electricity generation.


Stillwell, A.S., & Webber, M.E. Geographic, technologic, and economic analysis of using reclaimed water for thermoelectric power plant cooling. Environmental Science & Technology, 48 (8), pp 4588–4595, (2014).