by Michael Padilla
Vince Tidwell, from Sandia’s water program, provided testimony in front of the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Science, Space, and Technology in Washington, D.C., on March 7. Vince focused his testimony on the Department of Energy’s (DOE’s) energy-water nexus research and development efforts.
“This energy-water nexus is a complex system that my colleagues and I in the research community have sought to understand,” Vince said in his opening remarks. “We in turn use this knowledge to develop advanced technologies and tools to support water and energy policymakers and planners. While our focus today is on the nexus of energy and water, we must not lose sight that the connections go far beyond. Energy and water are tightly coupled to land, food, and agriculture.”
Vince focused on three points during his opening testimony, including the following:
- Challenges and opportunities related to the energy-water nexus are expressed differently in different regions.
- Integrated planning improves coordination between water, energy, and environmental managers jointly addressing issues of resource sustainability, waste management, and supply chain security.
- By harnessing the research and development capabilities of our national laboratories, academia, private industry, and federal agencies, we can develop advanced water treatment technologies that make new sources of water cost competitive, reducing our reliance on freshwater.
Vince said that the energy-water nexus work is more than simply avoiding unintended consequences of a complexly coupled system. “Rather, we have the opportunity to completely reimagine our energy and water future,” he said. “We are striving for an energy system that is not dependent on freshwater in our water-limited regions. Likewise, we envision a future where non-traditional water sources like brackish water, seawater, produced water, and wastewater can be treated at cost-competitive levels. Such changes will have impact well beyond the energy and water sectors, influencing our economy and national security.”
During the hearing, both Subcommittee Chairman Conor Lamb (D-PA) and Subcommittee Ranking Member Randy Weber (R-TX) referred to Sandia’s leadership in studying the energy-water nexus and commended Vince and his colleagues for helping stakeholders understand the trade-offs of policy and planning decisions.
Vince has 20 years of experience conducting and managing research on basic and applied projects in water resource management, collaborative modeling, and the energy-water nexus. He played a lead role in realizing a new crosscutting program on the energy-water nexus within DOE.
Vince recently led a multi-institutional team to integrate water into long-term transmission planning in the United States and identified potential pinch points where water stress could impact energy production internationally. He and his colleagues are combining critical-infrastructure protection models with climate-integrated assessment models to evaluate the resilience of our nation’s infrastructure.