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Columbia Energy Exchange

The Energy-Water Nexus


Dr. Michael Webber

Professor at The University of Texas at Austin

Turning on a light or filling a glass with water from the kitchen tap are two of the simple conveniences we often take for granted. While energy and water are essential resources, the ways in which they are interconnected is generally not well understood. If a country or region lacks one of these resources, that can limit its ability to access supplies of the other. Producing energy can impact water supply and quality. And producing useable water where its needed takes a lot of energy. Population and economic growth, climate change, government policies, and much more can all further strain access to water and energy, which is becoming ever more critical as developing economies seek access to them for their citizens. 
On this episode of Columbia Energy Exchange, host Jason Bordoff sits down with Dr. Michael Webber, Deputy Director of the Energy Institute and Associate Professor of Mechanical Engineering at The University of Texas at Austin, to discuss the energy-water nexus, which is the topic of his recent book, Thirst for Power: Energy, Water, and Human Survival.  Among the topics of they cover: 

  1. How are our energy and water systems connected? In what ways is water used in energy production, transportation and consumption? And how is energy used in the lifecycle of water used by society?
  2. What role does policy play in the energy-water nexus? What should policy do to address potential vulnerabilities–from energy production to climate impacts to aging infrastructure?
  3. Are there parallels to be drawn from designs for carbon pricing? How should we differentiate between water used for basic survival vs. luxury purposes?
  4. How can we manage the impacts of energy production on water quality and supply, specifically from shale oil and gas production?
  5. How can new technologies enhance protection of water quality, improve efficiency of water use in energy systems, and reduce energy intensity of water systems?
  6. How will the impacts of climate change affect the energy-water nexus?
  7. And many more.

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