Combating Water Pollution With Solar

What is energy-water connection?

Most people may know that burning fossil fuels emits toxic gasses that will both pollute the air and contribute to global warming. But you may ask, how does it affect our water? Fact is, energy-water connection is seen in the usage of water when producing energy. Take coal for example. For coal plants to function, they need water to be heated to create steam, which then turns turbines, generating electricity. In fact, virtually every stage of coal’s lifecycle—from mining to processing to burning—can impact local water supplies.

How do fossil fuels contribute to water pollution?

The operation process of drilling, fracking and mining fossil fuels poses a big threat to our waterways. In the case of coal plants, one system withdraws and discharges 70 and 180 billion gallons of water per year. When the waste water are discharged into rivers or lakes, they are typically hotter and can decrease fertility and increase heart rates in fish. Additionally, coal mining operations wash acid runoff into our waterways while oil spills and leaks during extraction or transport of fossil fuels pollute drinking water sources and put our freshwater or ocean ecosystems into jeopardy. Not to mention, enormous volumes of wastewater laden with heavy metals, radioactive materials, and other pollutants are generated during these operations.

What happens when water becomes polluted?

As the saying goes, water is the essence of life. Naturally, no living thing can survive very long without it. As a by-product of fossil fuels extraction operations, waste water is found to be contaminated with pollutants linked to cancer, birth defects, neurological damage, and much more. This waste is usually stored in open-air pits or underground wells, but incidents of leakage and overflow into waterways can happen and that will lead to a greater issue. Nuclear power plants also release nuclear isotope tritium into groundwater supplies. The toxic water pollution from these thermoelectric plants have been linked to cancer, neurological disorders, and environmental degradation. Naturally, when our water is contaminated, the opportunity for water-borne infections will skyrocket.

How will going solar help combat water pollution?

Solar energy is a reliable clean energy which does not require water in its generation of electricity. At the most, solar panels on your roof would only use water when you’re cleaning them off a couple times a year. On the contrary, coal plants use over 15,500 gallons of water for each megawatt hour (MWh) of electricity they produce while nuclear plants come in second at over 14,700 gallons of water per MWh. On top of that, solar panels do not generate any harmful waste as well. Hence, it will not require transport of fuels or disposal of waste products. Consequently, solar energy will greatly diminish and prevent the water pollution produced by traditional energy sources.