The water-energy nexus is a critical aspect of sustainability that must be understood. Energy production requires water, and when energy is saved, so is water. A 2006 report released by the U.S. Department of Energy stated that 39 percent of total freshwater withdrawals in the U.S. were for energy production. This is second only to withdrawals used for agricultural irrigation, but it can be argued that energy is used in order to pump the water required to irrigate. However, for the purpose of this blog, the two categories will remain separate.
Even with the heavy requirements for water and energy, there are many ways that the water-energy nexus can be used in a way that reduces and minimizes environmental impacts. Efficiency and conservation can be practiced and are the two most affordable and immediate ways that everyone can use less energy, thus saving water. Also, renewable energy such as wind and rooftop solar can be implemented in many areas, and these two types of energy production do not require any water. They also reduce impacts by lowering demand for fossil fuel power plants, and this means less water is pulled from rivers and lakes that power plants rely on to produce electricity. This point is critical everywhere, but in regions like the Rocky Mountain West where water is scarce and population is growing rapidly, it becomes even more important. Reducing demand on power plants also means that there are fewer toxic chemicals and other harmful pollutants entering our water and air.
Efficiency, conservation, and renewable energy must not be limited to the residential sector, however. The commercial and industrial sectors must also practice efficiency and conservation along with implementing renewable energy wherever and whenever possible in order to achieve the maximum outcome. This connection is not only important for a healthier environment, but it is critical for a healthy planet and all forms of life.