The energy-water nexus

Edmonston Pumping Plant Credit:

Plentiful amounts of water are needed to create electricity and, especially in the West and Southwest, considerable electricity is used is used to move water. This is the energy-water nexus.

Gigaom has a two part series on the relationship between energy and water. A few highlights:

  • Hydroelectricity consumes more water than thermo-electric plants by a fair margin (because of evaporation in man-made reservoirs.)
  • In 2006, the total amount of water-related energy use in California was 52 billion kilowatt-hours annually or about 6 GW of continuous power expenditure.
  • Electric cars can be more water-intensive than gasoline cars if each kWh of electricity production uses a few gallons of water.
  • The real water hog for energy purposes is biofuels. Each gallon of fuel produced can consume on the order of 1,000 gallons of water
  • Desalination is do-able but requires huge amounts of energy.

A 20% reduction in water and electricity use by everyone in the West and Southwest would solve most water and energy problems. Whether this happens voluntarily and by plan or crisis forces the issue, we will know soon enough.