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Energy-Water Nexus: Amount of Energy Needed to Supply, Use, and Treat Water Is Location-Specific and Can Be Reduced by Certain Technologies and Approaches

GAO-11-225 Published: Mar 23, 2011. Publicly Released: Apr 19, 2011.
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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 the urban water lifecycle and (2) technologies and approaches that could lessen the energy needed for the lifecycle and barriers that exist to their adoption. To address these issues, GAO reviewed scientific studies, government-sponsored research, and other reports and interviewed specialists from a variety of organizations, including drinking water and wastewater utilities; federal, state, and local government offices responsible for water or energy; and relevant nonprofit groups, about the energy needed to move, use, and treat water. GAO also selected three cities--Memphis, Tennessee; San Diego, California; and Washington, D.C.--as illustrative case studies to help understand the energy demands of the lifecycle in different areas of the country. GAO is not making any recommendations in this report. A draft was provided to the Departments of Defense, Energy (DOE), and the Interior, and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). DOE and EPA provided technical comments, which we incorporated as appropriate..

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Energy efficiencyEnergy planningNatural resource managementNatural resourcesPotable waterSafe drinking waterUrban economic developmentUrban planningWastewater managementWater qualityTechnology