Thermal energy efficiency: Water withdrawals (in Mgal/d) by power generated (in gigawatt-hours)

Source: USGS. Note: Data was collected every five years from 1985-2005, with the exception of 2000, when no thermoelectric water withdrawals were recorded.

About: Thermoelectric efficiency here is defined as the amount of electricity generated by the amount of water withdrawn. In other words, a plant is most efficient when it produces the most electricity with the least amount of water.

Directions: Use this motion chart to explore the efficiency of thermal power plants in the U.S. by state. There are three views: scatter plot, bar graph, and line chart. Choose the visualization you would like to use to explore the data by clicking on the three tabs in the upper right-hand corner of the graph.

Tips: In the scatter plot, make sure to click the “Trails” button before selecting certain states so you can track its movement over the years. To maximize the experience, play with the display options to change the shape sizes and colors depending on either water withdrawals or power generated.

Trends we noticed:

  • Illinois peaked at an all-time high water withdrawal at more than 17,000 Mgal/day in 1995. Then, it drastically reduced its withdrawals while still becoming more efficient in terms of power generated.
  • Texas, on the other hand, is using more water than 10 years ago and producing less energy.
  • While Florida is producing more power, it is not improving energy efficiency.