Water resource management

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Water resource management

Water is needed for generating electricity. In hydropower, the force of water is a raw material. Water is also needed for cooling fossil-fired plants and for extracting and refining oil and gas products.

Hydroelectricity, i.e. water, also plays an important role in electric systems. Reservoirs and wastewater treatment plants are used to store water that can be rapidly transformed into electric energy. Reservoirs are thus a form of large-scale electricity storage (14 GW available in around 10 minutes in France), which is essential for covering peak consumption periods, developing intermittent renewable energies and responding to incidents in order to avoid blackouts.

In France, EDF manages 7.5 billion cubic metres of water stored in its reservoirs, representing around 75% of the country’s artificial water reserves. At Group level, some 50 billion cubic metres of water are drawn for cooling thermal generation plants, with 99% discharged back into the environment almost immediately. EDF, therefore, draws significant amounts of water but consumes very little.

Cooling EDF Group thermal generation plants

The Group is committed to improving its performance in terms of water drawn and consumed for existing power plants, and to more efficient use of water at regional and water basin level.

In France, EDF has committed to reducing the consumption of drinking water across all its office buildings and green spaces by 5% a year through to 2020 at the 137 sites with remote meter reading.

Geographical breakdown of water drawn to cool EDF Group thermal generation plants

EDF Group in the world


Overall, 66% of the water used by the Group for cooling purposes is drawn from the sea or estuaries, where there is no risk of water shortage. These sources account for almost 59% in France, more than 99% in the United Kingdom and almost 92% in Italy.

Water drawn declined by nearly 4% due in particular to a reduction in nuclear and thermal generation in France and an increase in CCGT generation.

Water drawn and discharged by the Group (in 109 m3)

The heat sensitivity of fossil-fired power plants is diminishing in France with the closure of old coal- or oil-fired facilities located near rivers. The Aramon power plant, for example, was closed in 2016. New thermal generation facilities are located near the sea (e.g. the Martigues CCGT) or equipped with air cooling systems (Blénod 5 and industrial commissioning of the very high performance Bouchain CCGT), which reduces water dependency.

Water evaporated, which is comparable to the consumption of water necessary for cooling certain fossil-fired generation plants (closed circuit), accounts for only 1% of water drawn. On that basis, almost 99% of all water drawn is returned to the environment. In accordance with local regulations governing discharges, Group companies implement measures to ensure that quality and temperature criteria are met, and they take corrective measures immediately if thresholds are exceeded.

Water evaporated (in 109 m3)

Geographical breakdown of water drawn to cool the EDF Group's thermal generation plants

Water drawn in 2016 (in 106 m3)

Breakdown of water drawn in 2016 (in %)

The exposure of the Group’s generation assets to water stress has been assessed and remains low as its facilities are located mainly in Europe (almost 99% of the total water drawn by the Group, of which over 77% in France and over 18% in the United Kingdom) and the majority of its nuclear and thermal generation plants are located near the sea.

The decrease in water drawn worldwide (4% or around 2 billion cubic metres) reflects lower coal-fired generation, particularly in the United Kingdom, as well as reduced nuclear generation in France (extension of unit shutdowns at the end of 2016). The fall in the proportion of fresh water drawn (12% or around 2 billion cubic metres) reflects an improvement in the Group’s ratio of fresh water to total water drawn.

Specific consumption

Specific consumption (in l/kWh)

Specific water consumption remained virtually unchanged at around 1 litre/kWh generated.

These values are lower than the averages for the sector published in specialist literature because open circuits and salt water are used for certain plants, 1.8 l/kWh to 2.8 l/kWh according to the International Atomic Energy Agency (Efficient Water Management in Water Cooled Reactors, 2012).