The Water–Energy Nexus in the American West

The Water–Energy Nexus in the American West

Edited by Douglas S. Kenney and Robert Wilkinson

The nexus between water and energy raises a set of public policy questions that go far beyond water and energy. Economic vitality and management of scarce and precious resources are at stake. This book contributes to the body of knowledge and understanding regarding water, energy, and the links between the two in the American West and beyond.

Chapter 8: Water–Energy Interdependencies and the Central Arizona Project

Susanna Eden, Christopher A. Scott, Melissa L. Lamberton and Sharon B. Megdal

Subjects: environment, climate change, energy policy and regulation, environmental geography, environmental law, water, law - academic, environmental law


Susanna Eden, Christopher A. Scott, Melissa L. Lamberton and Sharon B. Megdal 8.1. INTRODUCTION In the western United States, large-scale, long-distance water conveyance projects have enabled continuous agricultural and urban development in regions – like southern California and central Arizona – where limited water supplies would otherwise have made this development impossible. All water supply systems require some energy input, but large water transportation systems are uniquely complicated by water–energy interdependencies and distant or ‘displaced’ impacts. The Central Arizona Project (CAP), which delivers Colorado River water to central and southern Arizona, provides a case study of the multiple interconnections between water supplies and energy that characterize water transportation in the American West. CAP faces multiple water–energy challenges, some a result of infrastructure design and thus are not easily remedied. Others are functions of operation, management and displaced environmental impacts. While drought and climate change are introducing new uncertainties into water planning, population growth continues to place increasing demands on supplies. The amount of its Colorado River water allocation that CAP will deliver in some future years is likely to be reduced by a combination of drought, climate change and upper-basin development. At the same time, air-quality regulation and potential requirements for mitigating the environmental effects of fossil fuel extraction and use promise to push CAP’s energy costs significantly higher. CAP’s water–energy interdependencies and displaced impacts are unique, but in broad outline they are typical of water conveyance systems across the West. Indeed, the case of CAP is illustrative of...

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