Washington – 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 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.”
The report identifies six strategic pillars that will serve as the foundation for coordinating R&D:
- Optimize the freshwater efficiency of energy production, electricity generation, and end use systems;
- Optimize the energy efficiency of water management, treatment, distribution, and end use systems;
- Enhance the reliability and resilience of energy and water systems;
- Increase safe and productive use of nontraditional water sources;
- Promote responsible energy operations with respect to water quality, ecosystem, and seismic impacts; and
- Exploit productive synergies among water and energy systems.
To pursue next steps, DOE will work with partners, including other federal agencies, state and local governments, foreign governments, private industry, academic institutions, non-governmental organizations, and citizens. This integration and collaboration will enable more effective research, development, and deployment of key technologies; harmonization of policies where warranted; shared robust datasets; informed decision-making; and public dialogue.