Study Reviews Western United States’ Water and Energy Future

Proposed western water supply projects are energy- and carbon-intensive, research group says.

Proposed water supply projects are more energy- and carbon-intensive compared to their antecedents, while wind and photovoltaic solar are renewable energy sources that put the least amount of strain on water resources, according to a new report. Released last month by the non-profit environmental law and policy organization Western Resources Advocates, Protecting the West: How Climate and Clean Energy Policies Can Safeguard Water examines the water future vis-à-vis energy for the Interior West U.S.

While the current water-energy tandem is a national issue, it is especially salient in the arid West due in part to geography, decreasing run off from climate change and a Colorado River commonly acknowledged as oversubscribed. Water is withdrawn and consumed by power plants to generate electricity, which is then used to move, purify and heat water. More water use requires more energy use and vice versa.

Many of the reviewed projects incorporate hydroelectric generation to meet part of their energy demand, but the balance should comprise renewable, water-efficient energy sources, said Stacy Tellinghuisen, a water and energy analyst for WRA.

“You could have solar panels on pumping stations, or you could install an equivalent amount of renewable energy elsewhere,” Tellinghuisen said. “It’s a matter of partnering with a regional electric utility.”

Of the eight major supply projects surveyed by the WRA, the Southern Delivery System (Colorado), Yuma Desalting Plant (Arizona) and Carlsbad Desalination Plant (California) are the closest to construction and the most energy-intensive. Energy intensity measures the amount of energy per unit of water, and there is a lot of energy tied up in desalination and the 2,500-foot lift for the SDS.

The WRA recommends that utilities reduce demand before looking for more distant and expensive projects. If the project is deemed necessary, then use renewable energy instead of adding to the atmosphere’s carbon burden.

Tellinghuisen hopes that a new evaluation process for federal projects will put more emphasis on greenhouse gas emissions and supply alternatives.

Environmental impact statements required by the National Environmental Policy Act place too little emphasis on energy demands and generally consider the current costs of electricity without projecting for future constraints, she added.

But that might change with new NEPA assessment principles proposed last December by the White House Council on Environmental Quality. The new guidelines would require planners to consider risks from climate change and non-structural alternatives, such as conservation. The proposal is being evaluated by the National Academy of Sciences, which is expected to rule in November.

Not only would it be a practical change but a philosophical shift too, Tellinghuisen said. “It’s important to make a statement that water utilities are aware of their climate change impacts.”



4 Comments
  1. Climate change is a fact–anthropogenic Climate Change (aka Global Warming) is dubious at best. The current Cap & Trade scheme is a derivative based system that will only profit the Banksters as they skim profits off the top. Beat the propaganda drum on this, but people are waking up to the scam. Environmental issues can be addressed without arduous, overzealous regulatory control and profitteering by a few.

  2. @ John – Deny away all you want: it’s your constitutional right. Moreover, contention is an essential part of the scientific process, meaning that debate is encouraged so that errors, better methods, etc, can be reached.

    On the other hand, just because you have a strong opinion (in this case, climate change), it doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s correct. Call it climate change or global warming, the science behind it is well established and – yes – supported by nearly 100% (97%, that is) of all climatologists. (survey: http://tigger.uic.edu/~pdoran/012009_Doran_final.pdf ; scientific lit. review: http://www.pnas.org/content/107/27/12107.full)

    What these professionals do is go through the crucible of observation, debate, modeling, counter-modeling, and so forth, to reach a consensus. One based entirely on data that is testable and accessible. By undergoing decades of rigorous testing, study, and scrutiny, the science behind anthropogenic climate change is, by definition, no longer “dubious.”

    In the end, your chief point of concern seems to be the market-based cap-and -trade system. Could be that it is not the best way to lower GHG emissions, although it has proven efficacy in the U.S. when it was deployed to reduce acid rain. Certainly a carbon tax could be used instead, and some feel like that would be a simpler and more elegant solution. But it looks like most regulation – as mentioned in your comment – is onerous.

  3. Kal,

    Thanks for the response. I’m pleasantly surprised that my comment was posted, since other pro-GW blogs simply delete my remarks. Maybe sites like Circle of Blue are opening up to constructive criticism after the IPCC fallout…. Squelching the opposition by deleting the opposing “denier” argument only serves to make dissent that much boisterous.

    I’d like to say that I respect your views, but generally disagree. And, please consider my statements with a little perspective: Although you may perceive me as a dim-witted knuckle dragger that toes the Pumpkin Head line, I can assure you I am not. I’m employed in the industry…and, honestly, I prefer to spend most of my time outdoors in the “environment”; therefore, I am acutely aware of the legitimate issues that negatively impact earth and environment.

    “@ John – Deny away all you want: it’s your constitutional right. Moreover, contention is an essential part of the scientific process, meaning that debate is encouraged so that errors, better methods, etc, can be reached.”

    Hear, hear! That’s a given…unless my free speech is stifled.

    “On the other hand, just because you have a strong opinion (in this case, climate change), it doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s correct. Call it climate change or global warming, the science behind it is well established and – yes – supported by nearly 100% (97%, that is) of all climatologists. (survey: http://tigger.uic.edu/~pdoran/012009_Doran_final.pdf ; scientific lit. review: http://www.pnas.org/content/107/27/12107.full)”

    Strong opinion versus strong opinion, I’d say. Let’s not appeal to authority or majority. Authority and majority have been wrong in the past. This can be argued until the cows come home–methane and all.

    “What these professionals do is go through the crucible of observation, debate, modeling, counter-modeling, and so forth, to reach a consensus. One based entirely on data that is testable and accessible. By undergoing decades of rigorous testing, study, and scrutiny, the science behind anthropogenic climate change is, by definition, no longer “dubious.””

    This paragraph is a bit condescending. Okay. Deniers too can be well versed in the scientific method. Your statement is template fill that serves to imply that the denier is scientifically illiterate. Actually, the deniers are making this very same argument regarding…well…climate alarmist. In addition, I too can cite tens of thousands of scientists that poo-poo the GW hysteria (oops).

    “In the end, your chief point of concern seems to be the market-based cap-and -trade system. Could be that it is not the best way to lower GHG emissions, although it has proven efficacy in the U.S. when it was deployed to reduce acid rain. Certainly a carbon tax could be used instead, and some feel like that would be a simpler and more elegant solution. But it looks like most regulation – as mentioned in your comment – is onerous.”

    Mmm…sorta right. Yes, I take issue with a forced market-based cap-and-trade scheme. Implosion in the manipulated, supposed free-market economic system in the United States should concern any breathing individual especially when the trade scheme mirrors in many ways the disastrous derivative market. Unfortunately, I feel that many greenies are being played, duped by a larger banking conglomerate that are willing to profit exponentially by the “CO2 is a pollutant” mantra.

    I want clean water…I want clean air, but not at the expense of truth and not based on the yet unsubstantiated (dubious?) claim of manmade Global Warming…er…Climate Change. I would argue that increasing CO2 atmospheric concentrations and the minuscule ramifications of slight Fahrenheit temperature scale increase–if anthropogenic climate warming is indeed in our future–should be low on the totem pole when considering the wide spectrum of environmental issues.

    I reaffirm…that environmental issues can be addressed without overzealous regulatory control, unsubstantiated anthropogenic-caused warming claims, and profiteering by a few.

    “Someone is going to make a lot of money from these schemes. I have great distrust for it. It is not motivated by true concern for social justice and the environment. It can only be about powerful financiers. I see it as an horrendous scam. I completely agree with UK environmental guru James Lovelock who called carbon trading verging on a gigantic scam.” – Dr. Denis Rancourt

    and

    “By far the most destructive force on the planet is power-driven financiers and profit-driven corporations and their cartels backed by military might; and that the global warming myth is a red herring that contributes to hiding this truth. In my opinion, activists who, using any justification, feed the global warming myth have effectively been co-opted, or at best neutralized. Global warming is strictly an imaginary problem of the First World middleclass.” – Dr. Denis Rancourt

  4. John,
    “Deniers too can be well versed in the scientific method. Your statement is template fill that serves to imply that the denier is scientifically illiterate. Actually, the deniers are making this very same argument regarding?well?climate alarmist. In addition, I too can cite tens of thousands of scientists that poo-poo the GW hysteria (oops).”

    Please provide your three best scientific articles denying that anthropogenic climate change is occurring today.

    Simply denying other people’s assertions does not fall into the category of scientific debate. Please make a counterpoint and provide evidence that disproves the theory we have presented regarding anthropogenic climate change. Then we can discuss further… simply holding a contrary opinion does not make a strong case for your viewpoint.

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