Water and energy are inextricably linked and mutually dependent, with each affecting the others availability. Water is needed for energy development and generation, and energy is required to supply, use, and treat drinking water and wastewater. Water and energy are also essential to our health, quality of life, and economic growth, and demand for both these resources continues to rise.
Although freshwater flows abundantly in many of our nations lakes, rivers, and streams, it is a dwindling resource in many parts of the country. As the demand for water increases, demand for energy is similarly expected to grow. While the growth rate in energy consumption in the United States has slowed over time, overall consumption continues to rise. To help meet this increased energy demand, domestic energy production is rising, along with its associated water usage. This increase in water use associated with energy development is being driven, in part, by rising energy demand, increased development of domestic energy, and shifts to more water-intense energy sources and technologies.
A considerable amount of water is used to:
- cool thermoelectric power plants,
- grow feedstocks and convert them into biofuels,
- extract oil and natural gas from geologic formations, and
- extract oil shale in the event commercial production of this energy source becomes economically feasible in the future.
Some of these sources of energy, such as biofuels that require the use of large amounts of fertilizers and pesticides to grow the feedstock, may also negatively affect water quality. In addition, development of oil and gas resources can produce large volumes of wastewaterknown as produced waterthat must be disposed of or treated to allow for its reuse. Conversely, significant amounts of energy are needed to extract, transport, treat, and use water in urban areas, additionally contributing to energy demand. Understanding and consideration of the link between energy and water will be essential to ensuring a sustainable supply of each.
GAO-12-156: Published: Jan 9, 2012. Publicly Released: Feb 8, 2012.
A significant amount of water is produced daily as a byproduct from drilling of oil and gas. A 2009 Argonne National Laboratory study estimated that 56 million barrels of water are produced onshore every day, but this study may underestimate the current total volume because it is based on limited, and in some cases, incomplete data generated by the states. In general, the volume of produced water...
GAO-11-225: Published: Mar 23, 2011. Publicly Released: Apr 19, 2011.
Providing drinking water and wastewater services are two key functions needed to support an urban lifestyle. To provide these services, energy is needed to extract, use, and treat water and wastewater. As the demand for water increases, the energy demands associated with providing water services are similarly expected to grow. GAO was asked to describe what is known about (1) the energy needed for...
GAO-11-35: Published: Oct 29, 2010. Publicly Released: Nov 29, 2010.
Oil shale deposits in Colorado, Utah, and Wyoming are estimated to contain up to 3 trillion barrels of oil--or an amount equal to the world's proven oil reserves. About 72 percent of this oil shale is located beneath federal lands, making the federal government a key player in its potential development. Extracting this oil is expected to require substantial amounts of water and could impact ground...
GAO-10-116: Published: Nov 30, 2009. Publicly Released: Nov 30, 2009.
In response to concerns about the nation's energy dependence on imported oil, climate change, and other issues, the federal government has encouraged the use of biofuels. Water plays a crucial role in all stages of biofuel production--from cultivation of feedstock through its conversion into biofuel. As demand for water from various sectors increases and places additional stress on already constra...
GAO-10-23: Published: Oct 16, 2009. Publicly Released: Oct 16, 2009.
In 2000, thermoelectric power plants accounted for 39 percent of total U.S. freshwater withdrawals. Traditionally, power plants have withdrawn water from rivers and other water sources to cool the steam used to produce electricity, so that it may be reused to produce more electricity. Some of this water is consumed, and some is discharged back to a water source. In the context of growing demands f...
GAO-12-880: Published: Sep 13, 2012. Publicly Released: Oct 15, 2012.
As GAOs past work has shown, and other studies and specialists have confirmed, there are a number of key energy-water nexus issues that Congress and federal agencies need to consider when developing and implementing national policies for energy and water resources. Specifically:Location greatly influences the extent to which energy and water affect one another. For example, as GAO reported i...