ROUNDTABLE ON SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY FOR SUSTAINABILITY
SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY FOR SUSTAINABILITY PROGRAM
BOARD ON ENERGY AND ENVIRONMENTAL SYSTEMS
WATER SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY BOARD
MEETINGS IN BRIEF
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Adequate water and energy are critical to the continued economic security of the United States. The relationship between energy and water is complex, and the scientific community is increasingly recognizing the importance of better understanding the linkages between these two resource domains. Federal agencies, the private sector, and academic researchers have noted that the lack of data on energy-water linkages remains a key limitation to fully characterizing the scope of this issue.
In an effort to bridge these resource domains, the U.S. Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources introduced bipartisan legislation, titled the Nexus of Energy and Water for Sustainability (NEWS) Act of 2014 (S. 1971), to coordinate and streamline federal activities related to the management of the energy-water nexus. The Senate Committee noted that “all forms of energy production require water and that our use of water requires energy. Together, energy and water resources are the foundation of our nation’s economy and are essential to our nation’s future and international security.”1
The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine’s Roundtable on Science and Technology for Sustainability (STS Roundtable), in collaboration with the Board on Energy and Environmental Systems (BEES) and the Water Science and Technology Board (WSTB), contributed to the emerging dialogue on the energy-water nexus by holding four related meetings in June and December 2013, and May and December 2014. These meetings were designed to examine emerging technical and policy mechanisms to address energy-water issues, including:
- Discussing a strategy for addressing the energy-water nexus in various sectors;
- Identifying data and research needs for addressing energy-water linkages, including ways
- to leverage ongoing data collection and dissemination efforts;
- Refining mechanisms for encouraging partnerships among key players in all sectors and furthering technological innovation to advance the field; and
- Examining linkages beyond those of energy and water, to include land use, transportation and technology.
The purpose of the meetings was to provide a national forum for identification of core energy-water nexus issues, to encourage the application of broader sustainability frameworks in thinking about these two inter-related resource domains, and to stimulate new initiatives to meet energy-water nexus challenges in a sustainable manner.
The first event, held in June 2013, provided a broad overview of the energy-water nexus, including examining key data and partnership needs for addressing energy-water issues. This meeting was developed in coordination with staff from the Cynthia and George Mitchell Foundation, who were actively involved in engaging foundations to call attention to the issue and to gain their perspective on how to move forward. Over 60 participants attended the event, including nearly a dozen foundations, representatives from 13 federal agencies, and numerous private sector entities, including Siemens, IBM, and Dow Chemical Company.
The December 2013 meeting delved more deeply, focusing on energy-water nexus issues associated with electric power production. Specifically, the meeting addressed how changing water conditions have affected the operations of thermoelectric power plants and the role of research on new water-saving technologies for power plants.
The STS Roundtable held two additional meetings on particular energy-water nexus issues in 2014. The May 2014 meeting focused on the role of technological innovation in addressing energy-water nexus challenges. Panels of experts examined research needs for optimizing current technologies, existing barriers, emerging technology innovations,
1 The U.S. Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources. 2014. Wyden, Murkowski Introduce Legislation on the Energy and Water Nexus. Online. Available at: http://www.energy.senate.gov/public/index.cfm/2014/1/wyden-murkowski-introduce-legislation-on-the-energy-and-water-nexus. Accessed April 22, 2015.
and approaches for advancing the integrative field of the energy-water nexus to best address key challenges. A one-page infographic was created to highlight some of the issues discussed at first three meetings.
The fourth and final meeting in December 2014 examined improved data for water use, decision support tools, and frameworks for local and regional decision making. The panel discussions built on progress made at the three prior meetings, as well as a 2013 workshop at Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s (MIT’s) Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) workshop on the energy-water-land nexus2 and a 2013 National Science Foundation workshop on developing a research agenda for the energy-water nexus.3
This volume compiles the Meetings in Brief for the four events:
- Sustainable Energy and Materials: Addressing the Energy-Water Nexus (June 6, 2013)
- Addressing the Energy-Water Nexus: Power Plants and Partnerships (December 5, 2013)
- Addressing the Energy-Water Nexus through Technological Innovation (May 20, 2014)
- Addressing the Energy-Water Nexus: Need for Improved Data and Decision Support Tools (December 10, 2014).
A Meeting in Brief provides a short synopsis of the presentations and discussions at a public meeting or workshop that can be produced quickly and inexpensively after the event. Written by an individual rapporteur, it is a reasonably accurate and objective summary of what occurred at the meeting. It does not contain findings or recommendations, and all opinions are attributed to individual or small groups of participants. A Meeting in Brief is subject to external review by experts other than its authors prior to release to the public, helping to make it as accurate and effective as possible. The committee’s role is limited to planning and hosting the meetings. The statements in the documents are those of the authors or individual meeting participants and do not necessarily represent the views of all meeting participants, the planning committee, the STS Roundtable, or the Academies. Each Meeting in Brief was reviewed in draft form by individuals chosen for their diverse perspectives and technical expertise, in accordance with procedures approved by the Academies Report Review Committee. This project was made possible with support from the Academies’ George and Cynthia Mitchell Endowment for Sustainability. We want to express our thanks and appreciation to our Roundtable co-chairs, Thomas Graedel, Yale University (through June 2014), Ann Bartuska, U.S. Department of Agriculture (through December 2013), and Lynn Scarlett, The Nature Conservancy (from August 2014), for the time and effort they put into planning these meetings. We also thank James Zucchetto of BEES and Jeffrey Jacobs of WSTB for their collaborative support with these activities.
Paulo Ferrão, Chair (2013)
David Dzombak, Chair (2014)
Planning Committee on Addressing
the Energy-Water Nexus
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