Water and Energy Security

Both water and energy are essential to every aspect of life; social equity, human health, ecosystem integrity and economic sustainability. The longstanding division between energy and water considerations is particularly evident in the case of energy and water management. These resources are fundamentally intertwined; energy is used to secure, deliver, treat and distribute water, while water is used to develop, process and deliver energy.  

Despite the inherent connection between the two sectors, energy and water planners routinely make decisions that impact one another without adequately understanding the scientific or policy complexities of the other sector.  This miscommunication often hides joint opportunities for conservation to the detriment of budgets, efficiency, the environment and public health, and inhibits both sectors from fully accounting for the financial, environmental or social effects they have on each other.

Water is used to generate energy and in turn energy is used to provide water. Climate change acts as a stressor of the already-intense competition over water and energy resources.

  •  If you have energy problem, you actually have a water problem: Water and energy demand are intimately intertwined and neither can exist without the other. Water is used to generate energy and energy is used to provide water. The demand for more energy drives demand for more water and in turn demand for more water will drive demand for energy.
  • Energy and water demands increase with income: There is a strong relationship between income and energy demand. At low income levels, energy and water are used for basic needs such as drinking, cooking and heating. However, as incomes increase, more energy and water is used for, swimming pools, transport, watering golf courses and cooling that meet peoples’ new lifestyles and diet needs.
  • Impacts on ecosystems: High demand and extraction of water and energy resources for industrial, agriculture and domestic use can have adverse impacts on ecosystem inform of loss of habitat, pollution and changes in biological processes.
  • Climate change affects energy use: The challenges of climate change and population growth are expected to aggravate the current increasing demand and imbalances in water availability and energy use.

The water-energy nexus hence is critical for understanding the driving forces, feedback relationships and the water and energy cycles for efficient and sustainable use of these resources. In order to manage both water and energy, planners and decision makers need to consider ways that can maximize the supply of one while minimizing the over use of the other. The water and energy section provides these linkages and pulls together the key resources from available sources pertaining to a full range of energy and water resources management.