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The Water-Energy Nexus

Water and energy resources are interdependent—using one requires the other. This presents a particular challenge in the American West, where energy demand continues to rise as water supply threatens to fall.
January 1, 2015
The Water-Energy Nexus

Due to drought conditions, Lake Mead, the reservoir created by the Hoover Dam on the Colorado River, is currently less than half full and is on track to produce only about half of its designed hydroelectric generating capacity by 2016.

With population growth and climate change decades or more away from abating, the water- energy nexus will only get more intense over time—that is, unless humanity can develop new technologies to reduce the amount of water spent on energy and vice-versa.

Energy production, broadly speaking, requires large quantities of water as well, and conversely, water usage requires large amounts of energy. Water is needed to cool thermoelectric power plants—coal, nuclear, gas, or concentrated solar thermal—and extract fossil fuels from the ground. Energy is needed for water treatment and distribution to agricultural, industrial, and residential customers. The full interdependence is a complicated one, often with a compounding effect, but the bottom line is this: any strain on either resource, water or energy, produces a corresponding strain on the other.