Energy and Climate
Energy and ClimateClimate/EnvironmentWater Security ProgramEnergy and Water in the Western and Texas Interconnects

Energy and Water in the Western and Texas Interconnects

Water Scarcity Impacts Energy Production

In the United States the energy sector accounts for approximately 41% of daily fresh water withdrawals and 49% of total overall daily water withdrawals for the following energy-related uses:

  • Hydroelectric power generation
  • Thermoelectric power plant cooling and air emissions control
  • Energy-resource extraction, refining, and processing

The Energy Information Administration projects the U.S. population will grow by 70 million people between 2005 and 2030, increasing electric power demand by 50 percent and transportation fuel demand by 30 percent. This will require more water. Unfortunately, this growth in water demand is occurring at a time when the nation’s fresh water supplies are seeing increasing stress from:

  • Limitations of surface-water storage capacity
  • Increasing depletion and degradation of ground water supplies
  • Increasing demands for the use of surface water for in-stream ecological and environmental uses
  • Uncertainty about the impact of climate variability on future water fresh surface and ground water resources

Project Objectives

The Department of Energy’s Office of Electricity has initiated a $60M program to conduct long-range transmission planning within the Western, Eastern and Texas Interconnections. As a result of this project, planners will assissted in:

  • Siting of new power plants
  • Planning expansion of transmission capacity
  • Expanding utilization of renewables
  • Incorporating environmental concerns into planning process

Western Interconnection Energy-Water Planning Study Led by Sandia National Laboratories

Support for this effort is led by Sandia National Laboratories and is supported by Argonne National Laboratory, Electric Power Research Institute, Idaho National Laboratory, National Renewable Energy Laboratory, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, and the University of Texas. Objectives include:

  1. Develop an Energy-Water Decision Support System (DSS) to enable planners in the Western and Texas Interconnections to analyze the implications of water stress for transmission and resource planning.
  2. Pursue the formulation and development of the Energy-Water DSS through a joint collaboration among the proposal team and the Western Electricity Coordinating Council (WECC), Western Governors’ Association (WGA), the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT).
  3. Use the Energy-Water DSS to investigate water stress implications of the transmission planning scenarios put forward by WECC, WGA, and ERCOT.

Project Tasks

Energy-Water Decision Support System

The Energy-Water Decision Support System is comprised of seven interacting modules:

  1. Thermoelectric Consumptive Use and Power Plants
  2. Non-thermoelectric Water Demand: Calculates water demand from competing use sectors
  3. Water Supply and Institutions: Regional measure of water supply for surface water, groundwater and non-potable resources. Includes wet (physical water available) and paper (policies regarding access) water.
  4. Environmental Vulnerabilities: Identification of potential risks associated with increased water use.
  5. Climate Variability: Estimates potential changes in water availability; includes a climate downscaling model to provide future climate forcing data for the watershed model and a dynamic large-scale watershed model to project changes to water availability.
  6. Water Valuation: Historic value of leased and sold water rights; economic value of water and cost of backstop technology
  7. Energy for Water: Calculates energy used to pump, convey, and treat water and waste water.

Data from Energy-Water Decision Support System (DSS) Tools Informs Decision Maker

The data, models, scenario analyses, and insights derived from this effort will provide a significantly improved body of evidence for policy and decision making at local, state and federal levels, including:

  • Industry Planners,
  • State and Federal Policymakers, and
  • Regulators

In addition, this project will supplement interconnection-wide transmission planning studies with information on water availability, which is critical in shaping electricity generation options.


Lead Lab

Sandia National Laboratories

Principal Investigator

Vincent Tidwell
PO Box 5800; MS 1137
Albuquerque, NM 87185

Project Partners

Organization Point of Contact
Argonne National Laboratory John Gasper
Electric Power Research Institute Robert Goldstein
Idaho National Laboratory Gerald Sehlke
National Renewable Energy Laboratory Jordan Macknick
Pacific Northwest National Laboratory Mark Wigmosta
University of Texas Michael Webber

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