A Caltech Library Service

Aggregate water availability for energy development in the upper Colorado River basin

Isaacson, Morton S. (1981) Aggregate water availability for energy development in the upper Colorado River basin. Environmental Quality Laboratory Report, 20. California Institute of Technology , Pasadena, CA. (Unpublished)

[img] PDF - Submitted Version
See Usage Policy.


Use this Persistent URL to link to this item:


Can a large (significant in national terms) energy-recovery industry be developed in the Upper Colorado River Basin (UCRB), alongside more traditional water uses, without causing a problem in the aggregate quantity of water supplied to the Lower Colorado River Basin?. This report answers that question in a "reasonably conservative" manner by slightly overpredicting demand and underpredicting supply. First, aggregate consumption of water in the UCRB due to water intensive energy industries is calculated as a function of the level of energy production. Reasonably conservative (i.e., on the high side) estimates of unit water requirements for coal-electric generation, coal-slurry pipelines, coal gasification (to produce substitute natural gas — SNG), and oil-shale processing are developed from an extensive literature survey. These are combined with various energy-development scenarios, also developed from a literature survey, to give total energy-related water consumption as a function of total energy industry size. Overall total UCRB water consumption can then be found by adding to the energy-related water use all non-energy-related consumption. On the supply side, aggregate UCRB water availability is determined from the results of a steady-state, stochastic hydrologic model which predicts the reliability of flow to the lower basin as a function of total UCRB consumption. Predictions of the model are conservative, in the sense of being on the low side, because: (1) the period of record used to determine tributary flows is a relatively low flow period and (2) because the use of excess stored water above steady-state levels during transition periods to steady state is ignored. Demand and supply are then presented together in a graphical form which allows the reader to determine for him-or-herself the level of energy development which can be allowed in the UCRB, depending on the levels he or she chooses for non-energy-related water consumption in the upper basin and the reliability of water supply to the lower basin. On an aggregate basis, there appears to be enough water available in the Upper Colorado River Basin to produce about 7 quads per year (7 x 10^(15) Btu/yr or 7.4 x 10^(18) J/yr, equivalent to well over one-half current liquid fuel imports) from the region's fossil fuel resources by water-intensive energy industries and still allow an increase in other water uses by more than 25% (about 0.8 million acrefeet per year (9.8x10^8 m^3/yr)) over what they now are.

Item Type:Report or Paper (Technical Report)
Additional Information:© 1981 Environmental Quality Laboratory. California Institute of Technology. The author would like to express his appreciation to Norman H. Brooks, Director of the Environmental Quality Laboratory, and Robert C.Y. Koh, Senior Research Associate in Environmental Engineering Science, for their many helpful comments; to Patricia Houseworth and Mary Ann Gray for their help in manuscript preparation; to Phillip Dube and Theresa Fall for their aid in figure preparation; and to the project's sponsors. Funding for this project has been provided, in part, by the United States Department of Energy, the Exxon Education Foundation, the Bechtel Corporation and the General Service Foundation.
Group:Environmental Quality Laboratory
Funding AgencyGrant Number
Department of Energy (DOE)UNSPECIFIED
Exxon Education FoundationUNSPECIFIED
Bechtel CorporationUNSPECIFIED
General Service FoundationUNSPECIFIED
Series Name:Environmental Quality Laboratory Report
Issue or Number:20
Record Number:CaltechEQL:EQL-R-20
Persistent URL:
Usage Policy:No commercial reproduction, distribution, display or performance rights in this work are provided.
ID Code:64235
Deposited By: Ruth Sustaita
Deposited On:26 Jul 2016 19:26
Last Modified:03 Oct 2019 09:35

Repository Staff Only: item control page