Addressing The Intersection Between Energy And Water Use

Erin Carson, Lead Analyst Friday October 17th 2014

Water use for the energy sector consumes a significant percentage of total water consumption

Percentage of Global Water Use, by Sector: Agriculture - 70%; Industrial/energy (including mining and power generation)- 19%; municipal networks (for both public and private users): 11% (Source: IEA, 2014)

Past and projected water and energy requirements in the the United States:

Total water withdrawals from all sources in the United States in 2011: 405,868 gallons per person (NCSL, 2014)

 Electric power consumption in the United States in 2011: 13,246 kWh per person (NCSL, 2014)

Projected energy requirements by 2020: An additional 393,000 MW of new generating capacity - about one thousand new 400 MW plants 

Balance of water supply and demand by 2030: Demand for water could outstrip sustainable supply by as much as 40 percent by 2030

Water and energy development are intricately intertwined. Energy production uses large amounts of water, and water treatment and distribution require low-cost, dependable energy supplies. The recent droughts that have impacted large parts of the nation are placing increased stress on water supplies used by multiple sectors, including agriculture and energy. The competition for these already scarce resources will continue to grow as the population and economy continue to increase. 

In June 2014, the Department of Energy released “The Water-Energy Nexus: Challenges and Opportunities,” which addresses the interactions between current energy and water systems and identifies technical and operational challenges at the local, regional and national level. The 2014 White House Climate Action Plan also referenced this issue as a “key vulnerability to key sectors of climate change.” The 113th Congress also weighed in with a number bills that attempted to address this intersection between water and energy use. In the summer of 2014, the Senate Subcommittee on Energy and Power held a hearing on S. 1971 - Nexus of Energy and Water for Sustainability Act of 2014, which would require collaboration between the Department of Energy and the Department of the Interior on energy and water production, use, and efficiency, and noted the essential relationships between energy and water. The following bills could also re-surface during the next congressional session:

  1. S. 761 - the Energy Savings and Industrial Competitiveness Act, sponsored by Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH): would require the DOE to carry out initiatives to improve the efficient use of water in manufacturing processes; establish energy efficient supply chains to conserve water; among other provisions
  2. HR.4801 - To Require The Secretary Of Energy To Prepare A Report On The Impact Of Thermal Insulation On Both Energy And Water Use For Potable Hot Water,  sponsored by Rep. Adam Kinzinger, (R-IL ): would direct the Secretary of Energy (DOE) to submit a report within one year on the impact of thermal insulation on both energy and water use systems for potable hot and chilled water in federal buildings and on the return on investment of installing the insulation. (Passed the House on 2/10/2014)
  3. HR.123 - Water Advanced Technologies For Efficient Resource Use Act Of 2013,  sponsored by Rep. Rush Holt (D-NJ): would identify and promote water efficient products, buildings and landscapes, and services to reduce water use, conserve energy, and preserve water resources. (Referred to House Energy and Commerce, Oversight and Government Reform, and Armed Services Committees 1/31/2013)
  4. H.R. 5189 - Energy and Water Research Integration Act of 2014,  sponsored by Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX): would aim to ensure consideration of water intensity in the Department of Energy's energy research, development, and demonstration programs to help guarantee efficient, reliable, and sustainable delivery of energy and clean water resources (Referred to the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology  7/24/2014)
  5. H.R. 3080 - Water Resources Reform and Development Act of 2014sponsored by Rep. Bill Shuster (R-PA): authorizes funding and sets new priorities and authorize funding for water resource programs.. (Became Law on 6/10/2014)
  6. H.R.2983 - Safe Hydration is an American Right in Energy Development Act of 2013sponsored by Rep. Janice Schakowsky (D-IL): would require testing of underground  sources of drinking water in connection with hydraulic fracturing operations, and for other purposes. (Referred to the House Energy and Commerce Committee 8/13/2013).

Want more?

Senate Subcommittee Hearing on S. 1971 -

Congressional Research Service (CRS) testimony before the Senate Subcommittee on Water and Power:

Department of Energy (DOE) testimony before Senate Subcommittee on Water and Power: 

International Energy Agency: 

National Conference of State Legislators: