[w] ater and energy are inextricably linked and mutually dependent, with each affecting the other’s availability. Since 2009, GAO has issued five reports on the interdependencies between energy and water. These reports have shown that a considerable amount of water is used to cool thermoelectric power plants, grow feedstocks and produce biofuels, and extract oil and natural gas. Some of these sources of energy may also negatively affect water quality. In addition, developing oil and gas resources can produce wastewater—known as “produced water”—that must be managed or treated. Conversely, significant amounts of energy are needed to extract, transport, treat, and use water in urban areas.
GAO was asked to identify key energy-water nexus issues that Congress and federal agencies need to consider when developing and implementing national policies for energy and water resources. To conduct this work, GAO systematically reviewed its five reports to identify key nexus issues. GAO also used a content analysis of related literature and interviews with specialists to validate these themes.
GAO is recommending that DOE take the actions necessary to establish a program to address the energy-water nexus, with involvement from other federal agencies, as described in the Energy Policy Act of 2005. DOE agreed with the recommendation and stated that it will work with other federal agencies and experts to implement it.
Related Energy-Water Nexus Reports:
Information on the Quantity, Quality, and Management of Water Produced during Oil and Gas Production, GAO-12-156 (Jan 9, 2012) 56 p.
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 (Mar 23, 2011) 35 p.
A Better and Coordinated Understanding of Water Resources Could Help Mitigate the Impacts of Potential Oil Shale Development, GAO-11-35 (Oct 29, 2010) 75 p.
Many Uncertainties Remain about National and Regional Effects of Increased Biofuel Production on Water Resources, GAO-10-116 (Nov 30, 2009) 54 p.
Improvements to Federal Water Use Data Would Increase Understanding of Trends in Power Plant Water Use, GAO-10-23 (Oct 16, 2009) 78 p.