Category Archives: Energy-Water Nexus

Four Lessons in Corporate Water Efficiency

Susannah Harris pictured here on site at Verizon headquarters in Basking Ridge, NJBy: Susannah Harris, 2014 Climate Corps Fellow

I received quizzical looks from family and friends when I told them I was working on water efficiency projects at Verizon this summer. They paused, racking their brains about where water is used within the telecommunications industry. “Like in the bathrooms?” they’d ask.

The reality is that domestic telecom companies rely on billions of gallons of water per year to cool, clean, and maintain the buildings and equipment that support their expansive networks. And because customers require networks to operate 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, much of that equipment is running around the clock. From cooling tower adjustments to grey water recycling, there are a number of water-saving opportunities available for the telecommunications industry. Implementing these practices – thereby reducing municipal water, sewer and energy bills – can also make a noticeable impact on the company's bottom line. Read More »

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New Graphics from DOE Illustrate the Energy-Water-Land Nexus

Energy-Water-Land NexusI’ve talked a lot about the inextricable link between the energy and water sectors, but land is a third component in this nexus that’s starting to gain recognition – and the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) is taking note. In fact, they recently released a 250-plus page report on the energy-water nexus (which I explore in-depth in a recent blog post) with accompanying visuals to illustrate the connection between these three sectors.

What is a Sankey diagram?

The primary graphic used to illustrate the connection between these three resources is the Sankey diagram. At first glance, it may make your head spin, but Sankey diagrams are commonly used to visualize energy transfers (although they are also used for other things, such as migration flows).

For example, the Energy Information Agency (EIA) uses Sankey diagrams in its Annual Energy Reports to illustrate the production and consumption of different energy sources. Since the width of the arrows corresponds with quantity, the viewer can easily see where the biggest impacts lie. In this case, it’s clear to see which energy resources are gulping down our water. Read More »

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Landmark Report from DOE Highlights New Challenges, Opportunities for the Energy-Water Nexus

Source: Department of Energy

Source: Department of Energy

If we can send a man to the moon, we can ensure the viability of essential resources – such as energy and water – in an unpredictable future affected by climate change.

A recent report released by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), The Water-Energy Nexus: Challenges and Opportunities, attempts to plan for this uncertainty by providing a landmark review of the US energy-water nexus – the first report of its kind from DOE.

Although there were many compelling findings in this 250-plus page report, for me there were two compelling themes worth noting: 1) energy and water are fundamentally intertwined, but so is land in this nexus, and 2) the Federal Government has an important role to play in providing support and leadership to the entities that govern these resources so that they may begin planning for the effects of climate change more holistically and collaboratively.

The energy, water…and land nexus

The DOE report affirms that the energy and water sectors are highly interconnected, but it also sheds light on a third component that’s becoming increasingly difficult to isolate from the energy-water nexus: land. Read More »

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EDF Energy Innovation Series Feature: Desalination – Here Comes the Sun. And Freshwater.

EDF-EIS-emailHeader-2EDF's Energy Innovation Series highlights innovations across a broad range of energy categories, including smart grid and renewable energy technologies, energy efficiency financing and progressive utilities, to name a few. This Series helps illustrate that cost-effective, clean energy solutions are available now and imperative to lowering our dependence on fossil fuels.

Find more information on this featured innovation here

WaterFX can turn virtually any water source into clean, drinkable water. And all they need is a sunny day.

This is great news for drought-stricken states like California and Texas, where water is becoming an increasingly scarce resource. In Central California, for example, the drought has essentially cut off thousands of farmers this year; they have no water, and their land now lays fallow.

Part of what’s draining this precious resource is our energy use. Taking into account the acquisition, treatment, and movement required to ensure water comes out the faucet when we turn it on, it is no surprise that water is among the country’s greatest users of electricity. Read More »

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The Energy-Water Nexus Faces an Up-Hill Battle…But at Least it’s on ‘The Hill’

Source: Argonne National Library

Source: Argonne National Library

The energy-water nexus has been gaining traction around the globe, including serving as the theme to this year’s World Water Day, and now we are finally seeing some movement on Capitol Hill.

In January, Senators Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) and Ron Wyden (D-Oregon) introduced S. 1971, the Nexus of Energy and Water for Sustainability Act of 2014, or NEWS Act of 2014. Foremost, the bill would establish an interagency coordination committee focused on the nexus between energy and water production, use, and efficiency. The NEWS Act of 2014 also proposes a cross-cutting budget mechanism to allow policymakers to see where funding is needed across various energy-water initiatives.

While the bill faces a particularly steep slope to passage (7% compared to an average overall 11% passage rate, according to GovTrack, a government transparency tracker), that it has been introduced at all is the first sign of a more comprehensive approach to the energy-water nexus at the highest levels. Read More »

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Desalination can Help Solve our Water Woes, but not without Clean Energy

Source: Prodes Project

Source: Prodes Project

As drought continues to grip Texas and many other Western states, one of the solutions often discussed (and pursued) to overcome water scarcity is desalination. Simply put, desalination, or desal as it is most commonly called, is a process that removes salt and other minerals from salty (brackish) or seawater to produce freshwater for drinking and agriculture. This technology seems like a no-brainer option for addressing the state’s water woes, but the problem is that desalination uses a lot of electricity and the majority of Texas’ electricity comes from coal and gas power plants, which require copious amounts of water to generate that electricity. It doesn’t make much sense to use water to make water, especially when there’s an alternative in Texas’ abundant renewable energy resources.

Texas is the national leader in wind energy and has the greatest solar energy potential in the U.S., yet neither of these resources are being widely deployed for desal plants despite recent studies pointing to vast opportunities. Not only do these energy resources produce negligible carbon emissions, but they also consume little to no water, unlike fossil-fueled power plants. Furthermore, if we look at where brackish water sources are located compared to where the wind and solar energy potential is in this state, the overlap is pretty clear. This synergy should not be ignored. Read More »

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Showtime Brings Realities of Texas Drought Home to Millions

Source: Jack Newton

Source: Jack Newton

It may seem like only yesterday that Texans were asked to conserve water after another scorching summer, but in reality it was four, dry years ago. The drought, which began in 2010 after La Niña altered sea level temperatures in the Pacific, continues to persist in the Lone Star State and promises to surpass the state’s record-setting multi-year drought from the 1950s. Ranchers have been forced to sell off cattle, town water supplies continue to go dry, and power plants struggle to provide a reliable supply of electricity due to water scarcity and long stretches of hot weather. Given these bleak conditions, it should not come as a surprise that 70 percent of Texans believe global warming is happening—and 52 percent said they have personally experienced the effects of global warming.

An all-star team of producers, including James Cameron, Jerry Weintraub and Arnold Schwarzenegger, intends to bring the Texas drought home to millions of televisions across the nation in the Years of Living Dangerously series premiering Sunday. Through this series, a host of celebrities, activists and journalists share the stories of those impacted most by our changing climate and what’s being done to save our planet. What is clear right now, in Texas and beyond, is that as climate change intensifies, we must adapt to more extreme weather conditions and make resilient changes that mitigate further stress. Read More »

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Energy-Water Nexus Around the World and the Missing Link

IEA blog

Source: Chenected

The energy-water nexus is gaining traction with diverse stakeholders around the world and it is becoming increasingly clear that we cannot plan for our planet’s future if we do not consider energy and water together.

Most recently, the United Nations celebrated World Water Day, launching a yearlong effort to highlight the global energy-water nexus, the chosen theme for 2014. In honor of World Water Day, the International Energy Agency (IEA) released its annual World Energy Outlook report, the first analysis of its kind to look at the impacts of water scarcity on the global energy sector. This signals a big step in the global understanding of the importance of the energy-water nexus, and reveals important insights on how regions, nations, and industries must cope with less water in a changing climate. Read More »

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On World Water Day, Why Talk About Energy?

Source: UN Water

Source: UN Water

The theme of this year’s World Water Day on March 22nd is the “energy-water nexus,” and the timing couldn't be better. According to the United Nations (who first established World Water Day in 1993):

  • 780 million people worldwide lack access to safe drinking water.
  • 1.3 billion people worldwide lack access to electricity.
  • 90 percent of the power generation in the world comes from water-intensive fossil fuels.
  • As countries progress and develop, there is an increased risk of conflict between power generators, other water users, and environmental concerns.
  • By 2035, global water withdrawals for energy are predicted to increase by 20 percent, and water consumption for energy is expected to increase by 85 percent.

For the past year, I’ve been trying to bring awareness to the connection between energy and water in Texas, but this issue is much bigger than a single state. Energy and water are both basic components of life and economic progress, and they are also inextricably linked. Energy is used to secure, deliver, treat, and distribute water, while water is used (and often degraded) to develop, process and deliver energy. Read More »

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World Bank’s Announcement of ‘Thirsty Energy’ Initiative Signals Growing Importance of Energy-Water Nexus

Kate ZerrennerEnergy and water, two of our most important global resources, are inextricably linked. And yet when it comes to planning, the regulatory agencies in charge of managing these precious resources are often separate and uncoordinated in their decision-making. With the World Bank’s recent unveiling of its Thirsty Energy initiative, it seems that the energy-water nexus is finally being taken seriously- and on a global scale.

This new initiative aims to address the interconnection between energy and water head-on by providing countries with “assessment tools and management frameworks” to help governments “coordinate decision-making” when planning for future energy and water infrastructure. Fortunately, this kind of guidance couldn’t come soon enough. Here’s a cool infographic from the Thirsty Energy website to illustrate where we are and where we’re headed: Read More »

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