Water-Related News

The Water-Energy Nexus: How water and energy are connected

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By Lara Miller, UF/IFAS Natural Resources Agent, Pinellas County

The Water-Energy who? Complicated relationships are often given complex names, much like the Water-Energy Nexus. Nexus is another way of saying, “a connection linking two or more things”, in this case, water and energy. We use water and energy every day, but how are the two connected?

It might surprise you to know approximately 40% of freshwater used in the United states is for electricity production (DOE, 2006) and about 13% of electricity in the U.S. is used for water supply like pumping, treating, and heating (River Network, 2009). Those statistics mean we use water to create electricity and we use electricity to generate water. Starting to see the connection?

In the Tampa Bay Area, our water is sourced from one of four places: groundwater (the aquifer), surface water (Hillsborough and Alafia Rivers), the desalination treatment plant, or the regional reservoir. At the present time, due to construction on the reservoir and dry conditions, we are currently sourcing our water solely from groundwater sources and the desalination plant. Water from these sources is obtained in different ways, each requiring different amounts of energy. Results from a Tampa Bay Water Case Study revealed energy needs are greatest for the desalination plant, followed by surface water and groundwater respectively.

One way to think about the water-energy nexus is when we flip the switch, we also turn on the tap and when we turn on the tap, we also flip the switch. If you’re like me and you pay a flat rate for your water regardless of how much you use, you might wonder why it matters if you leave the water running? Now you know, because it affects your energy bill.

Want to find out more? Join UF Professor from the Program for Resource Efficient Communities, Craig Miller, UF/IFAS Natural Resources Agent, Lara Miller and Extension Support Specialist, James Stevenson on Saturday, April 13th for a Water-Energy Nexus workshop called “Your Green Home – It is Easier Than You Think!”.

Source: Pinellas County Extension's "Timely Topics" blog