Water and Energy Tradeoffs

It’s no secret that we face trade-offs when we choose our energy sources. Perhaps the most commonly-cited trade-off is between cost and friendliness to the environment. But we need to take another trade-off into consideration as we make our energy decisions, and that trade-off is the one between our energy source and the amount of water it uses.

In recent years the South, the Southwest and the mountain states have faced droughts of varying severity. Each time droughts come to these regions we read reports of water-rights battles and calls for conservation. As of yet, power generation facilities – that use large amounts of water for cooling and other processes – haven’t been shut down due to drought. But that doesn’t mean it’s not possible.

To better illustrate the connection between water and energy sources, we’ve posted a PDF version of a presentation by Paul Faeth, a Senior Fellow at CNA in Washington, D.C. Paul’s slides chart where and how our freshwater is used, possible impacts of a drought, and how much water is used for various energy types. Our President wrote about her thoughts on energy and water in the latest CEIL e-newsletter, which you can find here. If you haven’t already, be sure to subscribe to our weekly e-newsletter, which is full of the latest government and sustainability news.

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