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Research Report

Impact of Municipal, Industrial, and Commercial Water Needs on the Energy Water Nexus:: Challenges, Solutions, and Recommendations

Richard L. Lawson
John R. Lyman
Blythe J. Lyons
Copyright Date: Oct. 1, 2012
Published by: Atlantic Council
Pages: 40
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Table of Contents

  1. (pp. [iii]-[iii])
    Frederick Kempe

    Limitations on water availability are emerging as a major restraint on economic development around the world. Even the United States can no longer assume every region will have enough water to meet energy, agricultural, industrial, and municipal needs. By addressing its own domestic water challenges, the United States will develop technologies and techniques that could easily be leveraged to address similar challenges in other corners of the globe. With leadership, technology development and deployment, and new institutional arrangements, the United States can be instrumental in resolving these many energy and water issues to build a more resilient, cleaner, and energy...

  2. (pp. 3-4)

    The circular relationship between energy and water is demonstrated in the water cycle, just as it is in the power-generation and primary and transportation fuels sectors. While water can be tapped directly by some energy end users, the water industry provides the vast majority of water to this sector for exploration, fuels extraction and processing, hydraulic fracturing, refining and purification, steam, cooling, hydropower production, and for cleaning solar panels. Significant amounts of energy are supplied by the electric power and oil and gas industries to the water and wastewater utilities for heating, pumping, pressurizing, purification, and aeration of water supplies....

  3. (pp. 5-7)

    The US water infrastructure faces multiple challenges. First, the pipe networks are nearing the end of their useful life and must be repaired or replaced. Second, water-treatment plants and storage tanks must be replaced or upgraded at a minimum in order to comply with new and more-stringent drinking-water quality standards. Third, new systems and programs must be developed to deal with wastewater and stormwater. Moreover, increasing population, heavier in some regions of the country than others, will require new water infrastructure.

    Millions of gallons of polluted waters are poured into US freshwater systems every year, due to both substandard infrastructure...

  4. (pp. 8-13)

    The Council’s reports on the power and fuels sectors’ water-related issues identified areas where water demand can be reduced.31 For example, water withdrawals and consumption can be reduced by the dry-cooling of power plants; by utilizing produced waters from oil and gas drilling for process water at fracking sites; and by recycling water in as many operations as possible. Agricultural water conservation, through efficient irrigation techniques, can also significantly reduce water demand. (Although the latter may increase energy demand due to the energy required to pressurize the irrigation systems, on balance, reducing water requirements could offset greater electricity requirements.) Likewise,...

  5. (pp. 18-23)

    The previous three sections examined water-cycle issues and solutions. In this section, the Council puts forth commonsense recommendations that are based on the presentations and discussions at the Watts and Water workshop.

    These recommendations build on those made by the Council to address the energy-water nexus from the perspective of both thermoelectric power supply and extraction/processing of primary and transportation fuels. These sets of recommendations can be found in Appendix A.

    All of the recommendations are made with an end goal of supporting the economic and environmental health of the United States while reaching a sustainable balance in providing the...

  6. (pp. 24-25)

    The United States is a water-rich country. However, water supplies will face strains if not outright shortages in certain regions. Technologies and efficiency measures are available to address increasing demands for—and shortages of—water, but on their own cannot overcome the main barriers. Key barriers include the governance and fragmented nature of the water agencies themselves; the complex and overlapping federal and state government-oversight system; and the fact that consumers do not treat water as a commodity, but rather view it as a right that should be priced cheaply.

    Energy demand to supply water and to treat wastewater is...