Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Power plants using too much water?

So are coal-burning power plants along the Ohio River using too much water? One group thinks so, and it wants the federal government to release documents on its study of water use by electric generating stations.

Quoting from the news release:

"As growing swaths of the United States face dwindling water supplies and even outright drought, the U.S. electric sector already withdraws 42 trillion gallons of water each year — more than 200 billion gallons a day, the equivalent of more than half of the water flowing through the Ohio River each year. ...

"… we estimate that generators along the Ohio River withdraw so much water that for every gallon which spills into the Mississippi River at Cairo, IL, one cup has passed through a generator on the banks of the Ohio River, and one tablespoon has evaporated to the atmosphere …According to data collected by the United States Geographic Survey (USGS), water withdrawals from thermoelectric power sources account for 49 percent of total withdrawals in the United States in 2005. This is equivalent to more than 201 billion gallons of water per day that is used for power plant cooling alone."

Pedestrian access on bridges

Some bridges over the Ohio River are not made for pedestrian use. I assume it's because these bridges are made for high-speed traffic, and the designers figure that where the bridges are located that no one would want to walk across them anyway. Perhaps they're right. I know of several bridges like that. I also know of at least one bridge that connects a city to a spot on the other side where you won't find a house or a business for a mile in either direction, but it has a sidewalk. And I know a bridge that connects two residential areas that has no sidewalk. Yet almost every day you see someone walking across it, braving traffic while walking on a berm that is at most three feet wide.

Having said that, words cannot express the horror that a Cincinnati man must have felt when a car knocked him off the bridge Friday morning. He fell 65 feet into the river. His body was recovered Saturday.

Without knowing all the details and without being familiar with the Brent Spence Bridge, I don't want to give any opinions on this particular incident. But I can say that pedestrian access to a lot of Ohio River bridges -- some have it, some don't -- makes no particular sense to me sometimes. And I'm thankful I've never had the misfortune of being on a bridge with no sidewalk when my car stops running. I've seen that happen once on a bridge I was walking across at the time. The guys in the pickup that stopped were lucky someone didn't plow into them, considering how people drive.