Policymakers urge conservation to address 'energy-water nexus.'
By Asher Price
As state's demand for water increases, so does its appetite for power
For the past few years, the topics of energy conservation and water conservation might have appeared to mix like oil and water, so seldom were the attempts to blend them.
But this year, as discussions of the state's energy and water demands bounce around the Capitol, environmental groups, academics and some businesses are starting to think about them together in ways that could clear a path for more ambitious conservation programs, change the types of power plants that are built and boost the attention paid to water resources when the state considers new plants.
"It takes energy to move water, and it takes a lot of
water to make energy," said Michael Webber, the associate director at the
Policy wonks have deemed the phenomenon worthy of its own catchphrase - "water-energy nexus" - and in just the past year or two, it has cropped up at conferences and in white papers.
So far, no state has changed up forecasting methods to
think of water and power jointly, although
Cities have to do their part, too, according to the report.
"Conserving water and conserving energy are synonymous," Webber, one of the report's authors, told a Senate panel in April.
He said renewable energies from wind turbines and solar panels require almost no water to operate. But he warned that some unconventional alternatives can make matters worse: Desalination plants produce potable water, but they require a lot of energy. Biofuels can substitute for foreign oil, but they require lots of water.
The state water board report recommended that the agency play a more prominent role in the permitting and siting process for power plants and that power plants use less water and recycle it internally.
Any changes to water cooling systems would send a ripple
across the energy industry in
The energy-water nexus has already led to real world
complications. In August, an
About a fifth of water drawn from the
And power plants hoping to locate along the
"We have to balance electrons going out of the basin with water needs in the basin," Zarling said.
The electricity Austinites demand requires about 18,100 acre-feet of water a year, said Ed Clark, a spokesman for Austin Energy.
Moving water, in turn, requires a lot of power.
A plan contemplated by the river authority and the San
Antonio Water System would pipe billions of gallons of water from the Colorado
River to San Antonio. Within the basin, the LCRA charges $126 to guarantee an
acre-foot of water during drought. The same amount of water would cost
Requiring power to operate its water and wastewater treatment plants and to pump water around the city, the Austin Water Utility takes up at least half the city government's electricity consumption, said Daryl Slusher, assistant director of conservation and environmental affairs for the utility.
About 4 percent of the nation's electricity is used for water supply and treatment, said Lisa Epifani, an assistant secretary at the U.S. Department of Energy.