Today, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) released a capping report that summarizes the findings of five previous reports on the interdependencies between energy and water. GAO was asked to identify key energy-water nexus issues that Congress and federal agencies need to consider when developing and implementing national policies for energy and water resources. The report titled "Energy-Water Nexus: Coordinated Federal Approach Needed to Better Manage Energy and Water Tradeoffs," was requested by Ranking Member Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX).
GAO has found that while water and energy are inextricably linked and mutually dependent, with each affecting the other's availability, energy and water planning is typically "stove-piped", with development of one resource often proceeding with little or no consideration for the other. GAO concluded that coordination among governmental and nongovernmental entities is key to improved planning, and that uncertainties that affect energy and water must be considered in setting federal policies related to these resources. Furthermore, GAO found that developing effective policies that address the energy-water nexus will be continue to be challenging without better and more comprehensive data and research.
Ms. Johnson said of the report, "I appreciate the GAO's work on this issue. This and previous GAO reports on this topic highlight the interconnected and sensitive relationship between our increasingly scarce water resources and energy development and consumption. Water availability and quality are essential for public health and a strong economy, but demands for, and threats to, these resources are growing. Because virtually all forms of energy production rely on water - and some production processes actually leave large volumes of water virtually unusable by our communities - getting the balance right between the need for energy, the need for water to produce that energy, and the need for water to serve our communities and other non-energy economic sectors is challenging. Some technologies and practices exist to help strike a better balance, and others will certainly be developed, but progress will be slow without better-coordinated planning, more comprehensive data, and a deeper commitment to research. That is why earlier this year, I introduced two pieces of clean water research legislation, H.R. 5826, the Coordinating Water Research for a Clean Water Future Act of 2012, and H.R. 5827, the Energy and Water Research Integration Act of 2012. Both bills aim to ensure that the nation will have access to clean and reliable water supplies for future generations, and I hope that we can see progress on this issue in the 113th Congress."