Water and energy are directly related and policies that promote energy conservation also achieve water conservation and vice versa, Cockrell School of Engineering Professor Michael Webber told a U.S. Senate Committee March 31.
Webber, a mechanical engineering professor, was among a panel of speakers invited to testify before the U.S. Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources. The committee is reviewing sections of the American Clean Energy Leadership Act, which was passed in 2009 to promote clean energy technology development, enhance energy efficiency and improve energy security, energy innovation and workforce development.
Webber, associate director of the Center for International Energy and Environmental Policy at The University of Texas at Austin, gave expert testimony on key trends and policy issues pertaining to the relationship between water and energy. Because the production of energy requires large volumes of water and water infrastructure requires large amounts of energy, Webber explained how the two resources are dependent upon each other in a relationship that's typically referred to as the water-energy nexus.
"It's a big honor to be invited to provide context and expertise on this crucial subject," Webber said before the committee hearing. "It's also good to see policymakers reaching out to technical experts who have a deep understanding of the issues at hand."
In his testimony, Webber explained the nexus and discussed how it is already under strain and is likely to only worsen due to population growth, economic growth, climate change and a policy-driven movement toward more energy-intensive water and more water-intensive energy.
Among his policy recommendations were to invest heavily in water-related research and development (so that it matches recent investment increases in energy-related research), collect and make available accurate and updated water data, find ways to help powerplants upgrade their cooling to less water-intensive systems, establish strict standards in building codes for water efficiency and invest aggressively in conservation.
Following testimony, Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska said Webber's policy recommendations and explanation of the water-energy nexus were helpful.
"Dr. Webber, I appreciate your testimony. You've given a whole laundry list of [policy recommendations.]," Murkowski said. "I don't think the water-energy nexus is something we appreciate as fully as we need to. When we're talking about energy we need to also talk about how water is integrated."
Other panelists invited to testify included Michael Connor, commissioner of the Bureau of Reclamation at the U.S. Department of Interior, and Steven G. Chalk, chief operating officer and acting deputy assistant secretary for renewable energy at the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, U.S. Department of Energy.
The hearing was webcast live and an archived video is now available on the committee's Web site.