Simmering Water War: How New Power Plants Will Suck Our Water Sources Dry

Boneheaded executives and greed-headed investors might be draining the fresh water supplies where you live.

Editor's note: Check out AlterNet's new book on our water crisis and solutions:Water Matters: Why We Need to Act Now to Save Our Most Critical Resource.

Here in my home state of Texas, we're suffering from withdrawal pains.

This isn't caused by our addiction to alcohol or drugs--but to plain water. And to make our pain worse, it's not the people of Texas who are hooked on a destructive water habit--it's the boneheaded executives and greed-headed investors in coal-fired and nuclear-powered plants that generate electricity.

And don't laugh at Texas, for the same corporate addiction might be draining the fresh water supplies where you live. Question: which uses more water--your washing machine chugging out one load of laundry, or the power plant that provides the few kilowatts of electricity to heat the water for that one load? No contest. The power plant uses as much as 10 times more water to make the electricity than you use to fill your machine.

It doesn't have to be this way. Solar and wind alternatives use almost no water to produce electricity--an advantage that today's "clean-coal" hucksters and nuclear speculators don't want you or your Congress critters to realize. Indeed, their lobbyists are pushing hard at both national and state levels to get regulatory breaks and taxpayer subsidies to let these voracious giants keep mainlining our nation's water.

Private interests now want to build four new, water-sucking power plants in our Lone Star state--even though Texas already produces far more electricity than it needs. Where would they get the billions of gallons of water they'd use each year? From the Colorado River, draining it and the region's Highland Lakes of the essential and scarce H2O that supplies millions of people in the Austin area and downstream.

Wherever you live, it's time for a citizen's intervention to break this costly habit. For information and action tips, contact Public Citizen Texas at www.texasvox.org.

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Jim Hightower is a national radio commentator, writer, public speaker, and author of the new book, "Swim Against the Current: Even a Dead Fish Can Go With the Flow." (Wiley, March 2008) He publishes the monthly "Hightower Lowdown," co-edited by Phillip Frazer.