On June 18, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) released a new report that frames an integrated challenge and opportunity space around the water-energy nexus for DOE and its partners, and also lays the foundation for future efforts.
Present day water and energy systems are tightly intertwined. Water is used in all phases of energy production and electricity generation. Energy is required to extract, convey, and deliver water of appropriate quality for diverse human uses.
Recent developments have focused national attention on these connections. When severe drought affected more than a third of the United States in 2012, limited water availability constrained the operation of some power plants and other energy production activities. Hurricane Sandy demonstrated the compounding ramifications of vital water infrastructure losing power. The recent boom in domestic unconventional oil and gas development has added complexity to the national dialogue on the relationship between energy and water resources.
The Water-Energy Nexus: Challenge and Opportunities lays out an array of technical and operational challenges across the water-energy nexus at local, regional, and national scales. The report notes that water scarcity, variability, and uncertainty are becoming more prominent, potentially leading to vulnerabilities of the U.S. energy system. System evolution brought on by climate change, population growth, technological advances, and policy developments are increasing the urgency for informed action. DOE is uniquely suited to meet a key national need for data-driven and empirical solutions to address these challenges. DOE’s longstanding technology and modeling research and development (R&D) positions the Department to guide research, demonstration, and deployment, as well as enhance and integrate data and models to better inform researchers, decision makers, and the public.
“DOE can bring its strong science, technology, and analytic capabilities to bear to help the Nation move to more resilient energy-water systems,” said Secretary Moniz. “This report provides a foundation for future DOE action in response to the challenges before us.”