For Immediate Release: June 29, 2015
Media Contact: Albert Lundeen - 916-654-4989


Energy Commission Online Map Tracks Water and Energy Resources

SACRAMENTO - For the first time, the California Energy Commission has assembled statewide data on water and energy resources in an online map that identifies the key sources of water for the state's largest 100 thermal power plants. The map identifies the water-energy nexus at California power plants of 75 megawatts and larger.

"California has made significant progress toward reducing water consumption and increasing recycled water usage at the state's largest power plants," said Energy Commission Chair Robert B. Weisenmiller. "This map shows that 50 of the state's 100 largest plants use recycled water, and our fleet of thermal power plants has become more efficient and more drought resilient."

The online map provides information about the potential impact on water sources for thermal power plant operations. Among the 100 power plants, half depend on recycled and degraded groundwater as their primary source of water, 30 plants use surface water and 20 plants use groundwater.

In response to the drought and as part of Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr.'s April Executive Order, the Energy Commission has also approved a process to expedite requests from power plant operators seeking to secure alternative water supplies for continued plant operation.

Of the power plants included in the online map, those using surface water are spread across 17 water districts, with no single water district having more than 8 percent of the total operating capacity (megawatts) displayed on the map. The 20 plants using groundwater as a primary supply are spread across 13 different groundwater basins limiting the impact to any one groundwater basin. Only two plants are located in basins with significant overdraft and subsidence related to groundwater pumping. These plants represent about 2 percent of the operating capacity shown on the map.

Every thermal power plant generates heat that must be removed to keep the plants running efficiently, whether for condensing steam or cooling lubricating oil. Since 2003, the Energy Commission has worked with power plant applicants to build new facilities to reduce water consumption through use of recycled water and water-efficient technologies such as dry cooling. These sources and technologies provide a more environmentally responsible option and make the associated power plants more resilient to drought conditions.

Since 2004, nearly 9,000 megawatts of combined cycle projects have been built. About 85 percent of that operating capacity has been built using recycled water or dry cooling, which has significantly reduced freshwater demand.

The map's power plants represent about 45 percent of power from in-state sources. The map identifies the location of each power plant and areas of subsidence, in which land sinks due to groundwater pumping. It also includes a table with plant size, operations and water sources. The map is a compilation of publicly available 2010 to 2013 information, and will be updated periodically to reflect changed circumstances.

To learn about all the actions the state has taken to manage our water system and cope with the impacts of the drought, visit Drought.CA.Gov.

Every Californian should take steps to conserve water. Find out how at

# # #

The California Energy Commission is the state's primary energy policy and planning agency. The agency was established by the California Legislature through the Warren-Alquist Act in 1974. It has seven core responsibilities: advancing state energy policy, encouraging energy efficiency, certifying thermal power plants, investing in energy innovation, developing renewable energy, transforming transportation and preparing for energy emergencies.

For more information, visit: or

Sign up for California Energy Commission news releases at