Power Plants and the Freshwater Crisis

Contemporary Science Issues and Innovations
June 25, 2013 Belmont Media Center

John Rogers, Senior Energy Analyst, Union of Concerned Scientists, Cambridge MA. Mr. Rogers is Co-Manager of the UCS Energy-Water Initiative, which focuses on solutions to the waste of freshwater in the production of electricity.


(graph courtesy of UCS) Freshwater is a critical resource and the supply is rapidly dwindling in an era of climate change. The demand for water far exceeds the rate of natural replenishment, leaving a seriously depleted water table and increased conflict over water rights in many regions. The bulk of our freshwater use is for cooling in power plants and irrigation in large-scale agriculture. In this discussion, John Rogers focuses especially on the problem of power plants. In the United States, 90 percent of electricity comes from conventional hermoelectric power plants—coal, nuclear, natural gas, and oil, and such technologies depend on freshwater cooling. Much of that freshwater is wasted. In a time of critical loss of freshwater, the deployment of alternative energy systems cannot be postponed.

Meet John Rogers

Water-Smart Power: Strengthening the U.S. Electricity System in a Warming World—A Report of the Energy and Water in a Warming World Initiative

some UCS background on freshwater use by power plants

from the UCS: The Energy-Water Collision: Ten Things You Should Know

Mr. Rogers formerly managed the Northeast Clean Energy Project, working to implement a range of clean energy and climate policies. He worked primarily on renewable electricity standards and the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative. He serves on the board of directors of the U.S. Offshore Wind Collaborative and of RENEW, an organization that promotes renewable energy in New England. He also serves on the advisory boards of several nonprofit organizations promoting U.S. renewable energy and global energy access.


John Rogers joined UCS in 2006 after working for 15 years on private and public clean energy initiatives, including as a co-founder of Soluz, Inc., a leading developer of clean energy solutions for rural markets, and as a U.S. Peace Corps Volunteer in Honduras. He earned a B.A. at Princeton University and a master's degree in Mechanical Engineering at the University of Michigan.

Mr. Rogers has been cited by the Associated Press, Business Wire, Boston Globe, Des Moines Register, and St. Petersburg Times, as well as by NPR and Boston's local PBS and NBC television affiliates.

Who uses our fresh water supply?John Rogers' blog on water usage by power plants and irrigation

Additional resources on the freshwater crisis

Union of Concerned Scientists

John Rogers’ UCS blogs

The Energy-Water Collision: Ten Things You Should Know

UCS Report: Power and Water at Risk

Energy and Water in a Warming World: EW-3 Initiative