Causes / sources

Lesson 20: Thermal pollution

Causes / sources

A leading cause of thermal pollution is electric power plants. Electric power plants produce heat when they are burning natural gases or coal. The high temperatures can turn water into steam to drive the turbines and in return produces electricity. In order for the plant to condense the steam, they circulate cool water next to the hot steam. This heated water, which is 15 C higher than the normal, is discharged back into the water body.

Runoff water also can cause thermal pollution. Concrete absorbs heat and can get very hot. Water running off concrete into rivers also causes major problems with raising the temperatures of the water.


Last modified: Monday, 2 January 2012, 12:30 PM