On September 13, 2006, the Environmental and Energy Study Institute (EESI) held a Congressional briefing on the connections between water use in the energy sector, energy use in the water sector and climate change. Some Members took action on this issue already—the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2005 (H.R. 4818) provided $500,000 for a Report to Congress on the interdependency of energy and water, focusing on the threat to national energy production resulting from limited water supplies. The continued security and economic health of the United States depends on a sustainable supply of both energy and water. These two critical resources are inextricably linked; the production of energy requires large volumes of water while the treatment and distribution of water is equally dependent upon readily available, low-cost energy. Also reciprocally linked are climatic conditions, particularly in the West where rivers and groundwater are fed by snowpack melt. The timing and amount of snowpack melt are critical to water availability for crop irrigation and power production, which account for 80 percent of U.S. water withdrawals.
On average, in the United States two gallons of water are evaporated for every kilowatt-hour (kWh) of electricity produced by hydroelectric and thermoelectric stations. Many regions of the country indirectly use as much water turning on the lights and running electric appliances each day in homes as is used directly, e.g., in taking showers, washers, drinking water and watering lawns. In 2000, irrigated agriculture and thermoelectric generation withdrawals of fresh water were approximately equal. Electricity production requires about 136 billion gallons of freshwater per day, accounting for over 40 percent of all daily freshwater withdrawals in the nation. In 2000, the United States used 123 billion kWh to supply water and treat wastewater, just under four percent of total electricity sales. This briefing explored the connections between water use in the energy sector, water efficiency, and climate change as well as some of the concerns for public policy. The panelists were:
Nate Gentry, Professional Staff Member, Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources
Dr. Allan Hoffmany, Senior Analyst, Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, U.S. Department of Energy
John Gasper, Strategic Area Manager, Environmental Policy Analysis and Planning, Argonne National Laboratory
Dr. Peter Gleick, President and co-founder, Pacific Institute for Studies in Development, Environment, and Security
The aforementioned Report to Congress was conducted by 12 DOE national laboratories that have joined in an effort to raise awareness within DOE and other agencies and associations on issues future energy production may face from growing limitations on water resource availability. In addition, a National Energy-Water Roadmap Program was initiated in 2005 by Congressional request. The Roadmap assessed the effectiveness of existing programs within the Department of Energy and other Federal agencies in addressing energy and water-related issues, and assisted the DOE in defining the direction of research, development, demonstration and commercialization (RDD&C) efforts on energy-water issues.