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The utilization of water as a heat transfer fluid is essential for the production of economic electrical power. There are many types of cooling facilities; however, the most economical means of electrical power production requires very large quantities of water to serve as a low temperature heat sink. For this reason, the power industry has, when possible, located its facilities near large sources of cold water, such as the Missouri River. The Omaha Public Power District (OPPD) has utilized the Missouri River since the turn of the century, and continues to do so today.
The availability of water in the future will play an important part in determining the rates power consumers must pay. In the Missouri River Basin, electric power water withdrawals from streams are second only to irrigation in total volume (Missouri River Basin Study, 1969). It is estimated that electric power facilities will be responsible for 19 percent of all Missouri River Basin surface water withdrawals by 1980. But, electric power facilities are only borrowers of water and have a consumptive use lower than other principal users, including cattle feeders, irrigators, municipalities, and industries. Power facilities consume only 6 percent of the water they withdraw (Missouri River Basin Study, 1969).