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 16: The Water Bargain of Solar and Wind Energy

Martin J. Pasqualetti

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


Martin J. Pasqualetti1 16.1. INTRODUCTION In the western US, our dependency on water has spawned many familiar aphorisms. One commonly attributed to Mark Twain claims that ‘whiskey is for drinking, but water is for fighting over.’ Another is said to reflect the attitude of Los Angeles: ‘Water runs uphill toward money.’ There are many others, but they all stem from the same reality: There is not enough water to go around. Explorer John Wesley Powell recognized this truth in the last third of the nineteenth century when he warned that western water supplies would never be sufficient to accommodate the proliferation of ranches, farms, and settlements that various promoters and politicians were envisioning. But as prescient as he was, Powell could scarcely have anticipated during his time the burden that would be placed upon this precious and scare resource in our time. Powell certainly knew that local water supplies could be enhanced through pumping and canals. He could not have imagined, however, the vastly complex and expensive plumbing system that would be installed to convert millions of often arid acres into dazzling cities and some of the most productive agricultural land in the world. He would have been amazed at the proliferation of private swimming pools that today help make bearable the torrid Phoenix and Las Vegas summers. And he certainly would have had absolutely no inkling of the myriad power stations that would one day suck out water from every possible source in order to make the electricity to...

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