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DOE report explores relationship between water and power generation

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A new U.S. Department of Energy report focuses on the connections between water and its role in energy production and generation, including hydroelectric power.

The DOE report, titled The Water-Energy Nexus: Challenge and Opportunities, "lays out an array of technical and operational challenges across the water-energy nexus at local, regional and national scales".

The report notes that threats like water scarcity -- such as the severe drought that impacted more than a third of the United States in 2012 -- and variability are potentially leading to threats to the country's energy system.

"The interdependencies between our water and energy systems are clear, and becoming more prominent," DOE said in a release. "Water is used in all phases of energy production and electricity generation, and energy is required to extract, convey and deliver water and to treat wastewaters prior to their return to the environment."

DOE said it plans to work with other federal agencies; state, local and foreign governments; private industry; academic institutions; non-governmental organizations and others in further addressing issues raised by the report.

"DOE can bring its strong science, technology and analytic capabilities to bear to help the nation move to more resilient energy-water systems," Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz said. "This report provides a foundation for future DOE action in response to the challenges before us."

The department said it intends to guide continuing research and development efforts in addressing six "strategic pillars", including:

  • Optimizing the freshwater efficiency of energy production, electricity generation and end use systems;
  • Optimizing the energy efficiency of water management, treatment, distribution and end use systems;
  • Enhancing the reliability and resilience of energy and water systems;
  • Increasing the safe and productive use of non-traditional water sources;
  • Promoting responsible energy operations with respect to water quality, ecosystem and seismic impacts; and
  • Exploiting productive synergies between water and energy systems.

Understanding the relationship between water and energy production could be an integral part of another recently announced DOE initiative, called "HydroPower Vision". The program, introduced during the National Hydropower Association's annual conference in April, seeks to dramatically increase American hydroelectric capacity in the coming decades.

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