The Water–Energy Nexus in the American West
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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.
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Chapter 1: The Water–Energy Nexus: Methodologies, Challenges and Opportunities

Robert Wilkinson


Robert Wilkinson INTRODUCTION 1.1. Energy systems account for the largest water use in the United States (Kenny et al., 2009), and water systems are among the largest users of energy in key regions (California Energy Commission [CEC], 2005). These facts have led many, including me, to make statements about the ‘inextricable’ nexus between water and energy. In fact, the link is not inextricable. At a minimum, we have opportunities to substantially decouple water and energy in ways that can improve resilience and economic performance, and improve environmental quality, social equity and security. This opening chapter will explore the basic relationship of water and energy systems, and it will outline methodologies employed by water and energy managers who are dealing with policy and decision-making in various realms. In addition to setting out the basics, it argues that important opportunities are available to improve both water and energy management in ways that can provide multiple benefits to society. 1.2. THE WATER AND ENERGY CONTEXT Water use for urban and agricultural purposes has been facilitated through extraction or diversion of surface and groundwater sources. Energy services have been provided by conversion of ‘primary’ forms of energy (for example coal, oil, gas, wood, wind, sunlight, uranium, etc.) to intermediate forms (for example electricity, liquid fuels, etc.) and ultimately to services we desire like mobility, temperature control and so forth. Both water and energy are often transported over long distances to places where they are used. Water and energy systems have changed as technological capacity...

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