The Water-Energy Nexus refers to the interconnectedness of our water and energy systems. Energy is required to extract, convey and deliver water of appropriate quality for diverse human uses, and again to treat wastewaters prior to their return to the environment. Thermoelectric power generation both withdraws large quantities of water for cooling and dissipates tremendous quantities of primary energy due to inefficiencies in converting thermal energy to electricity (“withdrawn” water is diverted from a surface water or groundwater source). Water treatment and distribution for both public drinking water supply and municipal wastewater require energy. The recent boom in domestic unconventional oil and gas development brought on by hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling has added complexity to the national dialogue about the relationship between energy and water resources. Producing oil and natural gas through horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing has the potential to impact local water quantity and quality, which can be mitigated through fluid lifecycle management In addition, there is significant regional variability in the water and energy systems, their interactions, and resulting vulnerabilities. When severe drought began to affect more than a third of the U.S. in 2012, limited water availability constrained the operation of some power plants and other energy production activities. Future increased deployment of some energy technologies, such as carbon capture and sequestration, could lead to increases in the energy system’s water intensity, whereas deployment of other technologies, such as wind and solar photovoltaics, could lower it.
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By Efrain Esparza, GMC Writer