China, the world’s largest coal consumer, plans on increasing its coal electricity generating capacity in order to boost the economy. However more than half of the proposed coal plants will depend on water resources that are under high stress.
Coal mines need a constant supply of water to extract, wash, and process coal as well as waste water to create steam and cool generating systems.
According to a Greenpeace China report, around 10 billion cubic meters of water will be needed annually for China’s coal plans to succeed.
China’s coal challenges are aggravated by the global and national climatic and demographic changes that shape China’s water supply and demand.
The Chinese government has issued a set of guidelines — the Three Red Lines — which call for limiting the annual water use to 700 billion cubic meters, 25 percent of available supply, increasing irrigation use efficiency to 60 percent and to protect water quality to maximise sustainable development.
In some regions the local government has set compulsory requirements for coal-fired plants to install technology such as closed-cycle and air-cooling loops. However these methods, while conserving water, reduce efficiency and increase greenhouse gas emissions.
[Image via: The Guardian]