When we think about energy, we need to think about water. And when we think about water, we need to think about energy.
More than anything, a new research report emphasizes the connected nature of these two basic of life. The report suggests that a greater focus on the nexus between the two could lead to savings – both in energy and water.
Key findings of the report, quoting from a release from the Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment:
- Current state, regional and local regulations for managing water and energy make it difficult to measure the significant supplies of electricity and natural gas employed in the extraction, conveyance, treatment and distribution of the nation’s water supplies. Even California, the only state calling for water managers to mitigate energy use, is still wrestling with regulatory roadblocks.
- At present, 19 percent of California’s electricity and more than 30 percent of the state’s natural gas supplies are used in the extraction, conveyance and treatment of water, representing a huge opportunity for energy savings.Assumptions about less carbon-intensive fuels may be invalid. For example, natural gas is often heralded as a better choice than fossil fuels. But little data have been collected to assess the water expended in natural gas extraction methods, nor is there much information on the impact of these methods on water quality.
- Water and wastewater managers could generate significant renewable energy supplies and bring enhanced grid reliability to states like California. Tools such as energy tariffs and transmission regulations, as well as widespread deployment of innovative treatment processes, could prompt the water sector to dramatically increase its renewable energy capacity with solar, wind, in-conduit hydro and biomass or biogas sources.
- Among the areas ripe for further research detailed in the report are the water demands of new energy technologies such as fracking, energy savings opportunities from distributed water treatment systems, innovative technologies for extracting energy from wastewater, and market mechanisms for more efficient water trading and transactions.
The full report, “Water and Energy Nexus: A Literature Review,” is available online as a 146-page PDF.