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Choke Point: India - The Leopard in the Well
Infographic: Coal and Water – A Resource Mismatch

The contest between coal-fired energy production and water demand is a mismatch. Mining and burning coal accounts for half of all water withdrawals in the United States, which is the same amount of water that pours over Niagara Falls in five months. Burning coal in power plants also is the source of more climate-changing carbon emissions than any other industrial sector. Here’s a look at the economically essential and ecologically damaging accord between coal and water.

Coal Water Energy Facts Graphic Info Pollution Power Plant Electricity Design
Graphic © Kalin Wood/Circle of Blue
Mining and burning coal accounts for half of all water withdrawals in the United States, which is the same amount of water that pours over Niagara Falls in five months. CLICK to ENLARGE

Graphic by Kalin Wood, a Circle of Blue graphic designer. With contribution from Aubrey Ann Parker, a Circle of Blue reporter and data analyst. Reach them at kalin@circleofblue.org and aubrey@circleofblue.org.

Coal Water Energy Facts Pollution Choke Point U.S.

Water Energy Facts U.S. Coal United States Choke Point



4 Comments
  1. How is the math even close to being consistent in the graphic? 800-3000×1 Billion = 800 Billion – 3 Trillion. Where did 55-75 Trillion come from? If you want people to take your graphics as facts, try to:
    1. Not use poor grammer and spelling.
    2. Not make obvious and seemingly careless arithmetic errors.

  2. Howie,

    Thanks so much for your comment. In response:

    Scientists define water use by two basic measurements. One is how much water is “withdrawn” from America’s rivers, lakes, and aquifers for domestic, farm, business, and industrial use, most of which is returned to those same sources. The second is how much water is actually “used,” i.e “consumed” in products, by livestock, plants and people, or evaporates in industrial processes. In both measurements of withdrawal and consumption coal is at the top of the charts.

    According to mining industry data, companies use 800-3000 gallons of water to mine and process and transport one ton of coal.

    According to the US Geological Survey, 410 billion gallons of water are withdrawn from rivers, lakes, streams, and aquifer each day in the U.S. About half of that — 200 billion gallons daily — is withdrawn for cooling power plants, mostly coal-fired power plants, which burn 1 billion tons of coal annually. Two hundred billion gallons per day X 365 = 73 trillion gallons withdrawn by power plants each year. The USGS estimates that thermal cooling for power plants withdraws 55 trillion to 75 trillion gallons per year, or roughly equivalent to the torrent of water that pours over Niagara Falls in five months.

    Read more about how scientists measure water use and water withdrawals in energy production in our Circle of Blue report: A Desperate Clinch http://www.circleofblue.org/waternews/2010/world/a-desperate-clinch-coal-production-confronts-water-scarcity/

    Again, thanks so much for your interest.

  3. I think that would be grammar Howie…classic

  4. Hi Keith,

    Great thought provoking and confronting stats, would it be possible to obtain the full reference information for these stats or links to the source information? It would be great to read about this in more depth.

    thanks

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