Reducing Energy’s Water Footprint: Driving a Sustainable Energy Future

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Water is an essential natural resource that impacts all aspects of life:  Clean and abundant supplies of water are vital for supporting the production of food, public health, industrial and energy development, and a healthy environment. Water is an integral part of energy extraction, production, and generation. It is used directly in hydro-electric power generation and is used extensively for thermoelectric power plant cooling and emissions control. Water is also used for energy resource extraction such as gas shale fracking and development, biofuels production, coal and uranium mining and processing, as well as for oil and natural gas refining and energy resource transportation.

Historically, energy infrastructures around the world were commonly developed within a context of unconstrained water resource availability. Increasingly, however, unsustainable uses of water resources, population dynamics and migration patterns, and climate change impacts on precipitation and the environment are all altering the baseline supplies of water across the globe. These factors are affecting new energy generation needs, the timing and spatial patterns of energy demand, and the risk factors for energy security, reliability, and price stability.

Therefore, as nations try to balance the demands and availability of water resources to support growing agricultural, human health, energy, industrial, and ecological demands in the coming decades, it is clear that the water footprint, even more so than the carbon footprint, could become the critical factor in defining a secure, resilient, and sustainable energy future for countries around the world.

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