One of the touted benefits of the futuristic US hydrogen economy is that the hydrogen supply—in the form of water—is virtually limitless.
This assumption is taken for granted so much that no major study has fully considered just how much water a sustainable hydrogen economy would need.
Michael Webber, Associate Director at the Center for International Energy and Environmental Policy at the University of Texas at Austin, has recently filled that gap by providing the first analysis of the total water requirements with recent data for a “transitional” hydrogen economy. While the hydrogen economy is expected to be in full swing around 2050 (according to a 2004 report by the National Research Council [NRC]), a transitional hydrogen economy would occur in about 30 years, in 2037.
At that time, the NRC predicts an annual production of 60 billion kg of hydrogen. Webber’s analysis estimates that this amount of hydrogen would use about 19-69 trillion gallons of water annually as a feedstock for electrolytic production and as a coolant for thermoelectric power.
That’s 52-189 billion gallons per day, a 27-97% increase from the 195 billion gallons per day (72 trillion gallons annually) used today by the thermoelectric power sector to generate about 90% of the electricity in the US. During the past several decades, water withdrawal has remained stable, suggesting that this increase in water intensity could have unprecedented consequences on the natural resource and public policy...MORE
We're screwed. Let's go make some money.