Water Rights and Water Use of Coal Facilities in the Colorado River Basin

Energy production from coal is on a downward trajectory, and many coal power plants and mines are expected to cease operations in the next two decades. As a result, communities whose economies are centered on coal are vulnerable to disruption. By the same token, the closure of coal mines and coal power plants may free up water supplies and create opportunities for sustainable economic development based on those supplies.

The Just Energy Transition Center at Arizona State University Lightworks and ASU’s Kyl Center for Water Policy at Morrison Institute have inventoried the water used for coal power plants and mines within the Colorado River Basin. This first-of-its-kind research summarizes findings from extensive research to identify and describe the amount, source, and ownership of water rights used by coal-fired power plants and coal mines throughout the Colorado River Basin.

This research is intended to help policymakers and community stakeholders impacted by the closure of coal-fired power plants and coal mines in the Colorado River Basin understand the water resources implications and opportunities to inform decision-making about the future use of those resources.

As used in this research, “impacted communities” means communities situated near coal-fired power plants and coal mines that are disproportionately impacted by the pollution and environmental impacts created by those facilities and/or that can reasonably demonstrate ways in which changes in the coal industry have caused or will cause serious consequences in local economies.