(364b) A River Basin-Based Model of Advanced Power Plant Cooling Technologies for Mitigating Water Management Challenges

Authors: 
Stillwell, A. S., The University of Texas at Austin
Clayton, M. E., The University of Texas at Austin
Webber, M., University of Texas at Austin
Allen, D., The University of Texas at Austin


Thermoelectric power plants require large volumes of water for cooling, which can introduce drought vulnerability and compete with other water needs. Alternative cooling technologies, such as cooling towers and hybrid wet-dry or dry cooling, present opportunities to reduce water diversions. This case study uses a customized river basin-based model for the Brazos River basin in Texas to analyze water availability during the full execution of water rights ? a scenario where each water rights holder diverts the full permitted volume with zero return flow. Our model results show that switching the cooling technologies at power plants in the Brazos River basin to less water-intense alternative designs can potentially reduce annual water diversions by 103 to 200 million m3 ? enough water for 534,000 to 1,030,000 people annually. However, volume reliability ? a policymaker's metric that indicates the percentage of total demand actually supplied over a given period ? increases by only 1% overall; volume reliability for individual rights increases by over 10% for five rights holders. While these water diversion savings do not alleviate all reliability concerns, the additional streamflow from use of dry cooling alleviates drought concerns for some municipal water rights and might also be sufficient to uphold instream flow requirements.

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