Coal is one of the most water-intensive methods of generating electricity.Every 3.5 minutes a typical coal-fired power plant withdraws enough water to fill an Olympic-sized swimming pool. Electricity is generated by burning coal to convert water into high-pressure steam to drive turbines; water is then used to cool the steam so it can go back to the boiler again. Water is also needed to wash and process coal before it is burned, to wash coal ash out, to reduce dust from the coal stockpile and to put out fires.
There are plans to construct at least 1200 new coal-fired power plants and mega coal mines around the world. Much of the proposed expansion is in water-stressed regions, which already suffer from limited supplies of fresh water for sanitation, health and livelihoods.