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- Report identifies gaps in publicly available water-energy nexus research
- Critical research needs include embedded energy and water values, guidelines and protocols, regulatory barriers
- Research recommendations support a roadmap to achieve economic and environmental benefits of water and energy efficiency
CHICAGO, IL and WASHINGTON, D.C. – As the nation’s administration carves a path to combat the effects of climate change through more sustainable resource management, a report released today reveals gaps in the understanding of the relationship between water and energy. The Alliance for Water Efficiency (AWE) and its partner the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE) have released a report, Water-Energy Nexus Research: Recommendations for Future Opportunities which assesses existing research on this nexus and identifies priority research areas for investments to enhance integrated resource management and support overall efficiencies.
This investigation, conducted by GEI Consultants, Inc., seeks to inform governmental officials and researchers about research related to the relationship and trade-offs between water and energy resources in the United States and where further efforts can aid in advancing sustainable practices.
“Water is needed to produce energy, and energy is needed to pump, treat, move, and heat water. These linkages are profound. Our ability to achieve energy and water security as well as successful carbon reduction will only occur if we manage this connection between water and energy,” said Mary Ann Dickinson, President and CEO of AWE. “The report shines a light on where deeper understanding is most needed. We intended the report to advise Congress, the Department of Energy, funders and researchers on meaningful progress toward a holistic approach to efficiency.”
The Report, funded by the Turner Foundation, is released two weeks after President Obama unveiled a nationwide plan to pursue low-carbon energy sources, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and build resilience to the climatic changes that are affecting the stability of water supply resources. It takes large amounts of water to produce energy -- according to the US Geological Survey, in 2005 53% of all freshwater withdrawals in the U.S. were used for energy production. Similarly, the sourcing, heating, treatment, pumping, and delivery of water can account for as much as 13% of the nation’s electricity consumption.
The report identifies specific recommendations for research which will accelerate collaboration and integrated approaches to managing water and energy resources. Several key recommendations include:
- Collect embedded energy in water data to determine the impact nationally of energy use in the water sector.
- Conduct detailed audits of embedded energy demands for an entire water and wastewater system to help determine opportunities for system optimization.
- Identify and eliminate regulatory barriers to co-implementation of energy and water efficiency programs.
- Develop water and energy industry accepted evaluation, measurement and verification protocols for efficiency programs.
- Assess potential impacts to water supplies and quality from energy resource development, such as hydraulic fracturing and biofuels development, and identify solutions to mitigate these impacts.
Other areas where research is needed include landscape irrigation, rate structures and financing mechanisms that support efficiency, and supply chain and product embedded water-energy evaluations.
"Filling the research gaps identified in this report would help overcome some barriers to joint water and energy efficiency," said Steven Nadel, Executive Director of ACEEE. "For example, identifying costs and benefits of water and energy would help utilities and policymakers design more effective programs."
A database of existing research supports the report and is available on the AWE website. To help inform this investigation, a Work Group was formed representing a diverse group of water and power utilities, public works and county agencies, universities, private and public research groups, government agencies, climate and resource advocate groups, and consulting firms. Research surveyed is publicly available information, easily accessed by the public and not confidential.
The Work Group meetings, report and database represent an extension of a roadmap for energy-water nexus challenges released by AWE and ACEEE, entitled Addressing the Energy-Water Nexus: A Blueprint for Action and Policy Agenda. The blueprint outlines a policy agenda and eight action steps that could lead to future economic opportunities and environmental benefits through using energy and water more efficiently. Some of the action steps include: collaborative programs and research, replicating best practices, improving revenue and pricing structures, codes and standards, and education of multiple audiences.
To download the report and view the research database, please visit: www.allianceforwaterefficiency.org/Water-Energy-Research-Group.aspx.
About the Alliance for Water Efficiency
The Alliance for Water Efficiency is a non-profit organization dedicated to the efficient and sustainable use of water. Headquartered in Chicago, the Alliance serves as a worldwide advocate for water efficient products and programs, and provides information and assistance on water conservation efforts. More information is available at www.allianceforefficiency.org.
About American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy
The American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy is a nonprofit, 501(c)(3) organization, acts as a catalyst to advance energy efficiency policies, programs, technologies, investments, and behaviors. For information about ACEEE and its programs, publications, and conferences, visit www.aceee.org.