Focus on the Nexus

A selection of articles that specifically illustrate the Nexus concept.

Energy Versus Water: Solving Both Crises Together.  An excellent article touching on climate, but mostly focusing on how the two critical problems of increasing energy demand and increased consumption of water resources are inter-related and need to be solved together. “Water and energy are the two most fundamental ingredients of modern civilization. Without water, people die. Without energy, we cannot grow food, run computers, or power homes, schools or offices. As the world’s population grows in number and affluence, the demands for both resources are increasing faster than ever…. almost no one is addressing the tension between the two: water restrictions are hampering solutions for generating more energy, and energy problems, particularly rising prices, are curtailing efforts to supply more clean water. Webber, M. 2008. Energy versus Water: Solving Both Crises Together. Scientific American, Special Edition, Earth 3.0, Energy vs Water, September, 2008.

Like Water for Energy, and Energy for Water.  “…neither power plants nor water providers need to use as much water or energy as they do. In fact, this nexus — the water used to produce energy and the energy required to treat and deliver water — presents a strong opportunity for smarter, more efficient planning in how we use both resources. And, as cities and regions across the world work to mitigate and adapt to a changing climate, the energy-water nexus may provide some answers….[A]n integrated approach, including water planning into energy policy and energy planning into water policy, can reduce costs for energy generators and water providers and users, encourage the innovation and adoption of new technologies, and offer a reliable way to achieve water and energy security in the near future.” Malik, B.K. 2009. Like Water for Energy, and Energy for Water. Environmental and Energy Study Institute.

The Energy-Water Nexus: Managing Water in an Energy-Constrained World. “Just as energy constraints become water constraints, in many regions, water has become a constraining factor on the energy supply. Power plant operators sometimes donʼt have access to enough water to build new power generation facilities using conventional designs. And they face environmental constraints on the temperature of cooling water that is discharged into local streams based on limits established to protect fish and ecosystems. Water can also be a constraining factor in extracting energy sources such as in oil and gas production, which can use tremendous amounts of water. This interdependence between water and energy is called the energy-water nexus. And while the relationship can be mutually constraining, it also presents an opportunity to address both energy and water issues together, because conserving one leads to conservation of the other. Consequently, the way we manage the delicate relationship between the two will have major implications on the future of our energy and water crises.” Sanders, K. and M. Webber, 2013. The energy-water nexus: Managing water in an energy-constrained world. Earth Magazine, 30 June 2013.

Trade-off Looms for Arid US Regions: Water or Power? Christian Science Monitor, 17 April 2007. “The drive to build more power plants for a growing nation – as well as the push to use biofuels – is running smack into the limits of a fundamental resource: water. Already, a power plant uses three times as much water to provide electricity to the average household than the household itself uses through showers, toilets, and the tap. The total water consumed by electric utilities accounts for 20 percent of all the nonfarm water consumed in the United States. By 2030, utilities could account for up to 60 percent of the nonfarm water, because they use water for cooling and to scrub pollutants. This water-versus-energy challenge is likely to be most acute in fast-growing regions of the US, such as the Southeast and the arid Southwest. Assuming current climate conditions, continued growth in these regions could eventually require tighter restrictions on water use, on electricity use, or both during the hottest months, when demand for both skyrockets, researchers say. Factor in climate change and the projections look worse. This is prompting utilities to find ways to alleviate the squeeze.” Spotts, P. 2007. Trade-off looms for arid US regions: water or power? Christian Science Monitor, 17 April 2007. 

Water, Energy and Climate Change: A contribution from the business community.  From the introductory Message: “Water, energy and climate change are inextricably linked. If we truly want to find sustainable solutions, we must ensure that we address all three in a holistic way. They are pieces of the same puzzle and therefore it is not practical to look at them in isolation. This paper is only a first step in fitting some of the pieces of that puzzle together. The search for solutions is complicated because water, energy and climate change are each complex. Examining their interrelationship further complicates the discussion but we must if we are to take the next step toward a sustainable society. They also touch all parts of our culture and are interconnected with other issues, such as our values, ecosystems and livelihoods. To make meaningful progress, we must acknowledge this complexity and use it to our advantage. When you have an energy problem, you most certainly have a water problem. It works the other way, too. And if you are concerned about climate change, you are actually concerned about both energy and water – whether you know it or not. Just as the issues are interconnected, so too are the solutions….” World Business Council for Sustainable Development Water Project, 2009.

Climate Impacts on Energy.  Emphasis on impacts of climate change on energy supply and demand (but addresses the water element as well): “Changes in temperature, precipitation, sea level, and the frequency and severity of extreme events will likely affect how much energy is produced, delivered, and consumed in the United States.”

“Key points:

√ Climate change is likely to both increase electricity demand for cooling in the summer and decrease electricity, natural gas, heating oil, and wood demand for heating in the winter. New infrastructure investments may be necessary to meet increased energy demand, especially peak demand during heat waves.

√ Climate change could affect the amount of water available to produce electricity or extract fuel. In areas where water is already scarce, competition for water between energy production and other uses could increase.

√ Sea level rise and more frequent intense storms could disrupt energy production and delivery by damaging electricity infrastructure, fuel delivery infrastructure and equipment, power plants, or storage facilities.”

Water-Energy Connection. “The use of water and the use of energy are intricately intertwined. The extraction, treatment, distribution, and use of water followed by the collection and treatment of wastewater require a lot of energy; likewise, the production of energy—particularly hydroelectric and thermometric power generation— requires a lot of water.” Simple overview of the energy-water interdependency and relevance to climate change. Good collection of relevant links at the end. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, 2012. Water-Energy Connection. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, 2013. Climate Impacts on Energy.

Windmills in Oklahoma providing clean energy to counter vehicle emissions.

California’s Water-Energy-Climate Nexus: Energy and Greenhouse Gas Emissions Embedded in Water.  From the Forward: “Nearly twenty percent of California’s electricity and more than thirty percent of non-power plant natural gas is used for water-related purposes: for collection, production, transport, treatment and delivery of water to end users; during the consumption and use of water; and for collection, treatment, and disposal or reuse of wastewater. Water is also critical to energy development: cooling, drilling, pump storage, hydropower, and bioenergy. It is not a surprise that California’s water sector uses substantial quantities of energy. Historically, Californians have routinely transported millions of gallons of water throughout the state, over hundreds of miles and thousands of feet of elevation, from point of origin to point of use….The ability to comprehensively assess the relationships among water, energy and greenhouse gas emissions will lead to more efficient investments, more effective programs, and more resilient markets.” The Climate Registry and Water Energy Innovations, 2013. California’s Water-Energy-Climate Nexus: Energy and Greenhouse Gas Emissions Embedded in Water.

Water Security: The Water-Energy-Food-Climate Nexus.  “Business leaders at the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting in 2008 set out a Call to Action on Water, to raise awareness and develop a better understanding of how water is linked to economic growth across a nexus of issues and to make clear the water security challenge we face if a business as usual approach to water management is maintained. This report captures where the debate is now and sets out the challenge we face if nothing is done to improve water management in the next two decades.” World Economic Forum, 2011. Water Security: The Water-Energy-Food-Climate Nexus. 

Climate Change: Implications for the Energy Sector.  “In the absence of strong mitigation policies, economic growth and the rising global population will continue to drive energy demand upwards, and hence GHG [greenhouse gas] emissions will also rise. Climate change itself may also increase energy use due to greater demand for cooling. The means and infrastructure to produce and transport energy will be adversely impacted by climate change. The oil and gas industry is likely to suffer from increased disruption and production shutdowns due to extreme weather events affecting both offshore and onshore facilities. Power plants, especially those in coastal areas, will be affected by extreme weather events and rising sea levels. Critical energy transport infrastructure is at risk, with oil and gas pipelines in coastal areas affected by rising sea levels and those in cold climates affected by thawing permafrost. Electricity grids will be impacted by storms, and the rise in global temperature may affect electricity generation including thermal and hydroelectric stations in some locations. Weather changes may also affect bioenergy crops.” Cambridge University and World Energy Council, 2014. Climate Change: Implications for the Energy Sector. June, 2014.

Climate change challenges power plant operations.  Record high temperatures and drought in the United States has caused problems for power plants supplying electricity across the country this summer. The Millstone nuclear plant in Waterford, CT, the Braidwood Nuclear Plant in Braidwood, IL, and one other nuclear plant in the Midwest had to temporarily shut down due to high water temperatures and lack of water for cooling operations. The Illinois Environmental Protection Agency granted exceptions to four coal-fired plants and four nuclear plants, permitting them to release cooling water into local waterways that is seven degrees hotter than federal clean-water permits allow. The severe drought has disrupted coal shipments on the Mississippi River used for electricity generation. Water levels at Lake Mead, the reservoir for the Hoover Dam, are 103 feet below maximum storage capacity, which corresponds to a loss of roughly 500 MW of electricity production this year. 

The Colorado River basin, which supplies water to 40 million people and is the source of hydroelectric power for the Hoover Dam, is facing reduced water flow. The Bureau of Reclamation projects that in the next 50 years the lower Colorado River’s flow will decline between nine and ten percent because of climate change, and that water demand will exceed supply by more than a third. Additionally, agricultural demands for water are estimated to rise between three and 10 percent during the same period. Eilperin, J. 2012. Climate change challenges power plant operations. Washington Post, 09 September 2012