The Water-Energy Nexus
Just as water produces energy, energy provides water services. This relationship, known as the water-energy nexus, is of increasing interest to academic, business, environmental, and public policy leaders—and for good reasons. As populations increase, demands on finite water resources and energy services threaten to push the limits of what our environment can sustain. Another compelling reason to pay heed to the water-energy nexus is climate change, which may result in significant alterations to precipitation patterns, with all that implies for altered water availability and the power derived from water.
From 2009 to 2010, the WSP's water-energy nexus research theme focused on water conservation and efficiency as a possible path to realizing future energy savings in Ontario municipalities. In 2012, the WSP launched a joint research initiative with the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (CCPA) that focuses on emerging challenges and opportunities for the water-energy nexus within the British Columbia context.
British Columbia's water and water-derived energy resources are vital assets that show signs of being under increased stress across the province—the result of mounting pressures such as population growth, climate change, and water-intensive industrial activities. This report examines the importance of policy coherence and improved governance around the management of these interlinked resources.
It was co-published by the POLIS Project on Ecological Governance and the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives. It is the first report in a two-part series addressing the water-energy nexus in British Columbia.
POLIS' second report on the water-energy nexus offers Ontario’s first estimate of the large quantities of energy used to pump, treat and heat water and to generate steam. The study reveals that pumping and treating water and wastewater consumes enough energy to light every home in the province. In addition, heating water for activities such as showering and doing laundry was found to be the second largest source of greenhouse gas emissions in the residential and commercial sectors because of the heavy reliance on fossil fuels. As a result of these findings, initiatives to support greater water conservation and efficiency could be a path to realizing future energy savings, to the benefit of municipalities, taxpayers and our environment.
Meeting Ontario’s commitment to slow the progression of climate change will take more than changing lightbulbs. It will require all sectors to diligently look for opportunities to reduce waste and increase efficiency. This study, the first of its kind in Canada, suggests that a significant, untapped opportunity exists for water conservation to reduce energy, save municipal dollars, and mitigate greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.
This summary report synthesizes key aspects of the themes explored at the November 21st, 2012 event "The Water-Energy Nexus: A Western Canadian Perspective," held as part of the WSP's ongoing "Roundtable on Water Issues" series. Summarizing the expert presentations and roundtable dialogue, it provides important coverage of the challenges B.C. is facing regarding the responsible management of its interlinked water and energy resources.