By Peter Sinclair
13 January 2014
(Climate Crocks) – They need the water. Your baby will have to look elsewhere. STFU.
“I believe we’re at a point where we see light at the end of the tunnel,” Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin said. Water samples had shown positive signs that traces of a coal-cleaning chemical were slowly fading from the supply for nine counties, he said.
There was still no timeline on when residents could use their water again, however, forcing residents and businesses to get creative on how they could safely cook, wash their hands and wash their clothes.
WITH so much focus on carbon emitted from the nation’s power plants, another environmental challenge related to electricity generation is sometimes overlooked: the enormous amount of water needed to cool the power-producing equipment
In the United States almost all electric power plants, 90 percent, are thermoelectric plants, which essentially create steam to generate electricity. To cool the plants, power suppliers take 40 percent of the fresh water withdrawn nationally, 136 billion gallons daily, the United States Geological Survey estimates. This matches the amount withdrawn by the agricultural sector and is nearly four times the amount for households.
Battles for water among these competing interests are becoming more common, and power plants are not always winning. A recent analysis by the Union of Concerned Scientists revealed many examples from 2006 to 2012 of plants that had temporarily cut back or shut down because local water supplies were too low or too warm to cool the plant efficiently.
In a Friday statement, the group Appalachian Voices made a connection between the ongoing regional water crisis and the coal industry that went beyond just the chemical involved.
“An increasing number of private wells in southwestern and central West Virginia, where the spill occurred, have been contaminated by decades of coal mining and processing,” the group said. “One result has been an ongoing expansion of municipal water systems to rural communities that would otherwise rely on well water.”
At the same time, shrinking revenues and declining investments in public infrastructure have led more and more small communities to contract with private companies like West Virginia American Water to provide drinking water services.
“Driven by profit margins, companies have aggressively consolidated their businesses, leading them to serve ever larger distribution networks from only a handful of treatment plants and drinking water intakes,” Appalachian Voices said. That’s how, the group said, one chemical spill into one river cut off drinking water access to roughly 16 percent of West Virginia’s population.
Inner Mongolia’s rivers are feeding China’s coal industry, turning grasslands into desert. In India, thousands of farmers have protested diverting water to coal-fired power plants, some committing suicide.
The struggle to control the world’s water is intensifying around energy supply. China and India alone plan to build $720 billion of coal-burning plants in two decades, more than twice today’s total power capacity in the U.S., International Energy Agency data show. Water will be boiled away in the new steam turbines to make electricity and flush coal residue at utilities from China Shenhua Energy Co. (1088) to India’s Tata Power Co. (TPWR) that are favoring coal over nuclear because it’s cheaper. [more]