Using Water Well? Studies of Power Stations and the Aquatic Environment


Improvement in the quality of treated effluents discharged has become increasingly important to permit the subsequent use and re-use of river water downstream. Moreover, as the environmental needs for water are becoming more clearly understood, increasing regard has to be paid to the quantity and quality of water in our water bodies. To give some indication of the pressure on water resources, consider the following global statistics.

Freshwater is only 3% of the global water resource, the rest being seawater. Moreover 78% of freshwater is locked up in snow and ice and 21% is below the earth's surface as groundwater. Only 1% of freshwater is present as surface water and only 57% of this small fraction is contained in rivers and lakes. Thus, crude calculation shows that less than 0.2% of the earth's total water resource is readily available freshwater -and much of that is located far from centres of population. This very small percentage has to meet all the domestic, industrial and agricultural needs of the world's population and, as is now increasingly being realised, the needs of our environment to maintain or, in some cases, improve its present quality.

The natural water cycle is distorted to meet our water needs, for example:

In the UK, we take more or less for granted the effective regulation of man's use of the aquatic environment. This may not be the case elsewhere in the world and other societies may place differing priorities on environmental protection. The following illustrate the environmental impact of the global population's use and abuse of water resources:

One of the principal problems, currently under investigation, is to decide how much we can afford to spend to satisfy the quantity and quality needs for water of all types of user, including those of the environment. This will affect the future development of water resources to meet those requirements and the cost of that water to the users. The unit price will, of course, have to include a proportion of the cost of meeting the environmental needs. This may be considerable, but it is a requirement of the latest EU Water Framework Directive, (2000), that the flow of rivers shall be maintained, with water of appropriate quantity and quality to satisfy the needs of their flora and fauna.

Industry is the largest single class of user of water in most developed countries and, of all the industries, power generation is usually the largest user of water. It is not, however, necessarily the largest consumer, since most of the water abstracted is returned to the water body from which it was abstracted. As water resources become more intensively used in the UK, methods by which less water can be used through re-use, recycling and better management techniques, become more and more important. A good example of this in the UK is the power industry; in 1967, 10% of all available fresh water passed through electricity generating stations, whereas twenty years later, this figure had been reduced to 2%.

The participants in the Joint Environmental Programme (JEP) are, therefore, to be congratulated on taking their responsibilities seriously, to both the community and its environment by:

Such responsibilities must, however, be kept under continuous review as social, economic, environmental and scientific thinking develops and new problems, or priorities, emerge. Clearly then, an iterative process has been started which, if carried out as far as is reasonably practical, can only be of significant benefit to the population I and the environment of this country, its neighbours and those further afield. This monograph describes both the state of knowledge and the power industry's involvement in this process.

Caryll Stephen
Chief Executive
Foundation for Water Research Marlow


Copies of this report can be obtained from:
Using Water Well?
Innogy plc
Windmill Hill Business Park
Whitehill Way
Swindon SN5 6PB
Price 10.00 (with order) including postage and packing
Innogy plc 2003