Water is crucial for Vattenfall's operations. In lignite mining ground water is removed, cleaned and partly used as cooling water in combustion power plants and partly returned to water bodies. In combustion power plants and nuclear power plants water is necessary for operating the facilities. And in hydro power, water is the power source. Water protection is crucial throughout our operations.
Our water use and impact
Most of the water is used for cooling purposes. For the most part water is taken from the sea and then returned to the sea.
- The largest amount of cooling water is used in our nuclear power plants in Sweden and to a smaller extent in Germany, since the German nuclear facilities have been closed.
- Combustion power plants with inland locations use cooling towers and therefore use significantly less water.
Water use in lignite mining
- Our open cast mining activities in Germany require draining the pit and so influence the water regime in the region. The removed groundwater/pit water is cleaned and used to cover the cooling water needs of the nearby lignite-fired power plants.
- Our need for water is well below the amount of removed groundwater/pit water. We offer treated water to nearby municipalities and industries. Around 70 percent of the cleaned groundwater/pit water is returned to rivers and lakes.
Water use in hydro power
In hydro power water is at core. Water is the resource and it is also the location of the operation.The construction of hydro power dams have a significant impact on the water flow of the rivers where they are built and on animal and plant life in the river. The construction effect the hydro morphology of rivers.
Water protection has been a priority for the general public, governments and our company for many years. Several of our power plants and electricity network transformers are located close to protected water areas, which make it necessary for us to have a high level of preparedness and to take preventive actions. To understand, monitor and mitigate the environmental impact we use life cycle assessments, environment product declarations and the Biotope programme.
Some examples of our approach:
- We take a water balance perspective for our management of water use, considering impacts of water withdrawal as well as discharge.
- We conduct thorough analysis to assess possibilities to increase efficiency of water use.
- Water parameters from discharges of cooling water are monitored and kept within specific limits for each respective plant.
- All wastewater generated in our operations is delivered directly to municipal sewage treatment plants or cleaned on-site before being discharged to water bodies.
- Impact of large reservoirs on river regulation and biodiversity in Sweden is investigated in a Hydro-Biodiversity programme.
- We have created streams to help sea trout reproduce where trout spawning grounds have been damaged by the fluctuating water flow.
- We stock about two million fish into the sea and rivers every year.
- In some areas we try to maintain a minimum flow to ensure a continuous water perimeter that reflects the natural flow.