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Drought and water scarcity present unique challenges for the energy sector. All sources of energy require water in their production processes, and energy is required to extract, convey, and deliver water. Because energy and water are so interdependent, the availability and predictability of water resources can directly affect energy systems.

U.S. Power Plants in Drought

This map shows U.S. power plants in drought. Drought conditions are based on the latest U.S. Drought Monitor, with power plant data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA).

This map shows U.S. hydroelectric power plants in drought. Drought conditions are based on the latest U.S. Drought Monitor, with hydropower plant data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA).

Power Plants in Drought

The color with the hex code #7fb135 identifies:
Plants Not in Drought
The color with the hex code #ffff00 identifies:
Plants in D0 - Abnormally Dry
The color with the hex code #ffcc99 identifies:
Plants in D1 - Moderate Drought
The color with the hex code #ff6600 identifies:
Plants in D2 - Severe Drought
The color with the hex code #ff0000 identifies:
Plants in D3 - Extreme Drought
The color with the hex code #660000 identifies:
Plants in D4 - Exceptional Drought

Hydroelectric Power Plants in Drought

The color with the hex code #7fb135 identifies:
Plants Not in Drought
The color with the hex code #ffff00 identifies:
Plants in D0 - Abnormally Dry
The color with the hex code #ffcc99 identifies:
Plants in D1 - Moderate Drought
The color with the hex code #ff6600 identifies:
Plants in D2 - Severe Drought
The color with the hex code #ff0000 identifies:
Plants in D3 - Extreme Drought
The color with the hex code #660000 identifies:
Plants in D4 - Exceptional Drought
Updated Weekly  -  01/21/21
Updated Weekly  -  01/21/21
Key Issues

Water Supply

Reduced water supply can lead to reduced energy production, and even to temporary closure of energy facilities.

Hydropower

Low water levels in reservoirs during drought conditions can reduce the energy that can be generated by hydroelectric dams.

High Temperatures

High temperatures that often accompany and exacerbate drought affect the energy supply chain, reduce biofuel feedstocks, and increase the risk of wildfire, which can impact energy infrastructure.

Drought Impacts on Energy Production

Production of all types of energy, including electricity, requires water. Because the energy sector is dependent on water availability, drought can severely impact energy systems.

  • Thermoelectric electricity generation. Thermoelectric power plants use steam turbines to generate electricity using a variety of fuel sources. Large amounts of water are needed to generate steam and for cooling. Drought conditions can result in reduced plant efficiency and generation capacity and can also impact the supply chain for coal, natural gas, biofuel, and nuclear fuel.  
  • Hydroelectric power generation. Hydroelectric power is generated by funneling water through power plants contained in dam structures. When water levels in reservoirs become low, the force of water pressure required to turn hydro turbine blades is reduced, which affects productivity. 
  • Hydraulic fracturing and refining. Reduced water availability affects the production and refining of petroleum and natural gas. During droughts, hydraulic fracturing (or fracking) and fuel refining operations can require alternative water supplies or may be forced to temporarily shut down. Shutdowns can increase costs, which in turn can raise consumer prices. 
  • Biofuels. Reduced water availability and decreased soil moisture during drought can reduce the cultivation of biofuel feedstocks.

Drought Early Warning for the Energy Sector

Drought early warning is essential to prepare for and mitigate drought’s impacts on the energy sector. Energy professionals need information on current drought conditions and outlooks in order to make informed decisions on cooling, alternative water supplies, pricing, and infrastructure security.

The resources below are organized by the key components of a drought early warning system: (1) drought observation and monitoring; (2) drought planning and preparedness; (3) prediction and forecasting of drought; (4) communication and outreach to the public and affected sectors; and (5) interdisciplinary and applied research on topics of concern to drought-affected sectors.

Related Content

Data & Maps | Water Supply

Identify and access datasets and maps for monitoring water supply.

Data & Maps | Temperature & Precipitation

Access current, historical, and forecasted temperature and precipitation datasets and maps.