Water Utilisation and Thermal Power Plants

A large part of India is facing an acute water crisis. The delay in monsoons and less than expected rainfall has further worsened the situation. India’s water use policies must underline the fact that India has only 4% of the world’s renewable water resources for catering to about 18% of the world’s population.

Water Utilisation in Thermal Power Plants

As India is pursuing the goal of 100 per cent electrification, there is a need to double the countries installed power capacity. The strategy for pursuing the goal has a significant dependence on thermal power plants. This poses a twin challenge of meeting the electricity needs and dealing with the water crisis.

Regulatory Provisions

  • The Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change had issued a notification setting limits for water consumption by thermal power plants (TPPs).
  • But the amended rules subsequently released in June 2018 ended up permitting TPPs to use more water than what was initially specified.
  • The Central Electricity Authority (CEA) has now released the format for TPPs to report on their annual water consumption. The power plants are required to specify both metered and un-metered usage, report on the source (like river, canal or sea), and state the percentage of deviation from the water norms, along with the reasons and the corrective measures undertaken.

These norms released by the CEA must be further strengthened by incorporating other provisions such as:

  • The TPPs must be asked to disclose the amount of water consumed by them in previous years. This would aid in establishing a baseline for water consumption per TPP and would also aid in quantifying subsequent reductions in water consumption.
  • These reporting requirements must be added to the Environment Protection Rules to accord the disclosure process greater transparency and enforceability.
  • The TPPs must also be asked to submit verifiable evidence (for example, water bills) to support and substantiate the disclosures.

Also, the data supplied by the TPPs must be placed in the public domain, so that the parameters disclosed can be studied in the context of region-specific water shortages, outages in the plants, and future research and analysis in this field.

Way Forward

Thermal power plants consume significant amounts of water for the generation of electricity. Moreover, most of India’s TPPs are located in water-stressed areas. These water shortages have led to electricity-generation disruptions and significant revenue losses to the economy. Hence reducing the water stress caused by TPPs must be emphasized upon in the journey of 100 per cent electrification.

India must balance the needs of its growing economy with its heightening water stress. Therefore there is a need for stringent implementation of standards for judicious water use by TPPs, combined with the promotion of RE and energy efficiency.


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