Water and Electricity Generation, including Sources of Water for Energy Production

2016 Spring Cyberseminar Series

Bridget Scanlon / University of Texas at Austin
Vince Tidwell / Sandia National Laboratories

Talk Description:

This webinar will cover the following topics:

  • Fundamental differences between water and electricity in terms of storage and transportation
  • Water withdrawal and consumption for electricity in the U.S. (41% of water withdrawal, 2% of water consumption, 2010)
  • Energy flow diagrams (Sankey diagrams) showing efficiency of electricity generation  
  • Controls on water consumption and withdrawal (fuel source, generator technology, cooling systems)
  • Trends in water consumption and withdrawal for electricity in the U.S.
  • Drought vulnerability of electricity generation (Case study 2011 drought in Texas)
  • Projected thermoelectric water footprint considering growth in demand, fuel mix, cooling types, location and capacity

Integrated water and electricity planning in Western U.S. considering 5 different water sources at 8 digit HUC level (12000 watersheds)

Projected energy requirements for water in Western U.S. including large conveyance systems, irrigation, drinking and waste water treatment

While electricity generation is associated with large volumes of water withdrawal in the U.S. (45% in 2010), most of this water is returned to the system at higher temperature resulting in 3 – 5% of water consumption. The future potential of thermoelectricity generation to exert pressure on limited water supplies is of concern given projected growth in electric power generation. The thermoelectric water footprint may vary significantly depending on decisions concerning the mix of fuel type, cooling type, location, and capacity, which are influenced by such factors as demand growth, policies, and climate change. The complex interplay among these disparate factors makes it difficult to identify where water could limit siting choices for thermoelectric generation. These arguments point to the need for joint coordination, analysis and planning between energy and water managers which will be described in this webinar.


Vincent Tidwell is a Principle Member of the Technical Staff at Sandia National Laboratories. He has 18 years experience conducting and managing research on basic and applied projects in water resource management, nuclear and hazardous waste storage/remediation, and petroleum recovery. Most recently efforts have focused on establishing a multi-agency, multi-university center devoted to the creation and application of computer-aided decision support tools and stakeholder mediated decision processes. Focus of this effort is on water resource management and planning. These models adopt a system dynamics framework for integrating the broad physical and social processes important to water planning. Additionally, these system level models are directly linked to a variety of other tools, providing an integrated basis for analysis, visualization and decision support.

In 1985, Vince earned a Bachelor’s of Science degree in Geology from the University of Texas at Arlington. From there Vince attended the University of Arizona in Tucson where in 1988 he received a Master’s of Science in Hydrology and Water Resources. Vince worked two years for Roy F. Weston, Inc. as a consulting hydrologist. In 1990 Vince joined Sandia National Laboratories and quickly enrolled in the University Part Time Program. In 1999 Vince earned his Ph.D. in Hydrology from New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology.

CUAHSI's Spring 2016 Cyberseminar Series on the Water Energy Nexus!

The interdependence of water and energy is increasingly being recognized with water shortages potentially impacting energy production and vice versa. However, our understanding of the linkages and feedbacks between water and energy is sometimes limited. This webinar series is designed to educate hydrologists and others on the interdependence of water and energy, focusing primarily on water use for energy extraction and electricity generation (secondary form of energy).

Bridget Scanlon from the Bureau of Economic Geology at the University of Texas at Austin hosted this spring cyberseminar series on the "Water Energy Nexus."