The Ins and Outs of Water at Power Plants on the Missouri River

Published: December 22, 2015


Dr. Greg Howick stands above the cooling water outfall from a power plant located on the Missouri River.
photo courtesy of Greg Howick.

Presentation by Dr. Greg Howick, Senior Aquatic Ecologist at Burns & McDonnell Engineering Company, Inc.

Original Presentation, December 22, 2015 at Westport Coffeehouse Theater, Kansas City, MO.

When people think about important uses of the lower Missouri River, they often overlook the largest water user. The largest use of water from the river is for steam condensation (cooling) by power plants. Of the 15 active power plants on the river between Sioux City and St. Louis, 14 withdraw large quantities of water that are passed once through steam condensers then discharged back to the river 10 to 20 degrees Fahrenheit warmer.

The discharge of cooling water is regulated by state water quality standards and criteria and Section 316(a) of the Clean Water Act. The withdrawal of water by cooling water intakes is regulated by Section 316(b). In addition to adjusting to compliance with these regulations, some power plant intakes are being impacted by a degrading river bed that has lowered water levels.

Dr. Howick presented highlights of the rules regarding power plant intakes and discharges, and described the work he had done on the Missouri River to help power plant owners comply with these regulations.

Greg Howick is the Senior Aquatic Ecologist at Burns & McDonnell Engineering Company, Inc.  He received his Ph.D. in Biology with a specialization in limnology and aquatic ecology from the University of Kansas in 1981. He has 34 years of experience ranging from baseline surveys to studies related to water resources, power plants, and lake restoration. For Burns & McDonnell, Dr. Howick is the technical and scientific lead for providing services related to limnology and aquatic ecology including: Section 316(b) compliance, discharge plume mapping and modeling for water quality compliance, fisheries, water and sediment quantity and quality, and bathymetry. Greg is also a veteran volunteer boat driver for Missouri River Relief cleans ups in the Kansas City area.

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