The Energy-Water Nexus: Overview with the Environmental Defense Fund

Water for energyThe long-standing division between energy and water considerations is particularly evident in the case of energy and water management.  Energy is used to secure, deliver, treat and distribute water, while water is used (and often degraded) to develop, process and deliver energy.

 

Although these resources are fundamentally intertwined, they are often developed, managed, and regulated independently. When severe droughts affected more than 1/3 of the US in 2012, some power plant operations were constrained due to the availability of water to produce energy.

 

Other factors will also begin to increase the urgency to address this nexus in a proactive manner. Climate change has affected precipitation and temperature patterns, our population continues to grow which places greater pressure on both energy and water systems, and new emerging technologies might shift demand.

 

energy water lightbulbDespite the inherent connection between the two sectors, energy and water planners routinely make decisions that impact one another without adequately understanding the scientific or policy complexities of the other sector.  This miscommunication often hides joint opportunities for conservation to the detriment of budgets, efficiency, the environment, and public health. It also inhibits both sectors from fully accounting for the financial, environmental, and social effects they have on each other.

 

There are many opportunities for companies, manufacturers, and organizations to benefit from acting on the energy-water nexus. In many cases, water conservation efforts can lead to significant reductions in energy use through treating wastewater on-site, using water in manufacturing processes, or through water heating. Strategies such as dry manufacturing or reuse and capture of wastewater are just a couple of ways this can be accomplished. By reducing both energy and water use in a project, companies increase their overall savings and greatly reduce their overall consumption of environmental resources.

 

EDF logoAt the upcoming Illinois Governor’s Sustainability Awards, Kate Zerrenner, Climate and Energy Project Specialist from the Environmental Defense Fund will speak on this topic and make the business case for focusing on the energy-water nexus, on the Morning Technical Symposium panel, “Shaping the Future of Production” at 9am on October 27th, 2015 at the Sheraton Hotel Chicago (301 E. North Water St.).

 

Join us to learn more about this topic. Registration opens September 1st on our website: istc.illinois.edu/govsawards.

 

Learn more about this issue in an upcoming interview with Kate about the challenges and opportunities associated with the energy-water nexus. See also her April 2014 blog post on EDF’s Energy Exchange blog.

About Laura B.

Laura L. Barnes is ISTC's Sustainability Information Curator and Executive Director of the Great Lakes Regional Pollution Prevention Roundtable (GLPPR). She also created and authors Environmental News Bits (http://envnewsbits.info).
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