WASHINGTON, D.C. – March 10, 2009 – Dr. Peter Gleick, president of the Pacific Institute in Oakland, Calif., testified today before a packed hearing of the U.S. Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee in support of a new bill that aims to integrate the relationship between water and energy use into national policy decisions. Introduced by Sens. Jeff Bingaman (D-NM) and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), the Energy and Water Integration Act of 2009 will charge the Department of Energy with developing a course of action for tackling the links between energy and water. The bill – S531 – also calls for the U.S. National Academy of Sciences to assess the impact of energy development on the nation’s water resources. Eight senators from around the country attended the hearing.
Gleick—one of the world’s pre-eminent water experts—explained how water and energy are linked, how limits to the availability of both resources are beginning to affect one another, and how recognizing this link when developing national energy and water policies can lead to many substantial economic and environmental benefits.
“From mining raw materials to cooling power plants to disposing of waste, water is used in every part of our nation’s energy system. Likewise, capturing, treating, moving, distributing, and using water also requires substantial energy,” said Gleick. “Although each is dependent on the other, water and energy are rarely integrated in policy.”
Yet, from helping to save energy and water to curbing greenhouse gas emissions, incorporating this linkage into resource planning and policies can have many benefits.
Gleick explained that increased water-use efficiency can lead to a decrease in energy use. Using less water decreases demands not only on water resources, but on the energy necessary to pump, treat, move, heat, and use that water. Further, the energy savings from water-use efficiency can be achieved at a fraction of the typical cost of saving energy: the California Energy Commission recently calculated that 95% of the energy savings of proposed energy-efficiency programs could be saved at 58% of the cost through water-efficiency programs instead. This is leading to a rethinking of funding priorities for energy efficiency. Not only can water efficiency efforts save substantial water (and energy) at lower costs, but it can do it faster than creating “new supply.”
Understanding this linkage also can affect how we deal with the realities of climate change. California, for instance, is already beginning to regulate greenhouse gas emissions from water utilities.
“Decision makers and corporations should better integrate energy issues into water policy and water issues into energy policy,” said Gleick. “The failure to link these issues will inevitably lead to disruptions in the supply of both water and power.”
More than an hour of questions and answers followed the expert testimony.
Gleick’s written testimony can be found at http://www.pacinst.org/publications/testimony/
Based in Oakland, California, the Pacific Institute is a nonpartisan research institute that works to create a healthier planet and sustainable communities. Through interdisciplinary research and partnering with stakeholders, the Institute produces solutions that advance environmental protection, economic development, and social equity – in California, nationally, and internationally. www.pacinst.org.