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.

Policy Papers

October 2015

This decision-makers' brief outlines and summarizes the results of a recent in‐depth research review on water governance challenges specific to hydraulic fracturing across Canada. It identifies some of the primary concerns associated with the current approach to management and governance, and offers specific actions to help address the emerging challenges. The brief is primarily focused on British Columbia, New Brunswick, the Northwest Territories, and Nova Scotia, but also informed by developments in Alberta and Quebec. It highlights a number of key actions required for decision‐makers to consider when addressing governance challenges related to water and hydraulic fracturing.

The brief is based on research undertaken as part of one of five projects within the Canadian Water Network hydraulic fracturing program, particularly research informing the Regional Snapshot Report: Building Capacity to Build Trust: Key Challenges for Water Governance in Relation to Hydraulic Fracturing (October, 2015).

December 2012

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.

Research Reports

October 2015

This report identifies the key water governance challenges specific to hydraulic fracturing across Canada (with a particular focus on British Columbia, New Brunswick, the Northwest Territories, and Nova Scotia) and those knowledge gaps that need to be addressed to resolve such challenges. It emphasizes that the use of water in hydraulic fracturing activity in Canada has not caused, but has certainly illuminated, the fractured nature of existing water governance arrangements. The authors conclude there is an urgent requirement for generative actions that build capacities for accountability, transparency, engaging and co-governing with Indigenous Nations and non-Indigenous communities, and making informed decisions.

The report is based on research undertaken as part of one of five projects within the Canadian Water Network (CWN) hydraulic fracturing program. See CWN's 2015 Water and Hydraulic Fracturing Report for a high level assessment of program activities and identified knowledge gaps.

June 2013

This report argues that the B.C. provincial government should safeguard the public interest by creating a robust, publicly accessible water-use database that covers all withdrawals from both surface and groundwater sources by major users. It recommends three immediate courses of action to set the stage for a robust water use reporting regime in future years.

This report was co-published by the POLIS Project on Ecological Governance and the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives. It is the second report in a series addressing the water-energy nexus in B.C. Download the first report.

Although not highlighted in Counting Every Drop, the BC Water Use Reporting Centre is a good existing pilot project. This voluntary program shows that a province-wide monitoring program is possible, and offers a viable model that could be expanded upon. This online water management and reporting system is an initiative of the Okanagan Basin Water Board, in partnership with the Province of B.C. and Environment Canada. It was designed to help utilities and large water users regularly record their water use. Learn more and download the Information Guide. In addition, further information on this topic is also provided in the 2012 BCWWA position paper “Reporting of Water Withdrawals.”

November 2012

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.

April 2010

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.

March 2009

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.



Running Out of Steam? Emerging Challenges for the Water-Energy Nexus in B.C. and Beyond (October 2012)

The Water-Energy Nexus (March 2012)

Ontario's Water-Energy Nexus (April 2010)


Where will all the water come from for LNG? (The Province, February 24, 2014)

B.C. needs to better monitor water consumption (Times Colonist, June 11, 2013)

Comment: More data needed in natural-gas debate (Times Colonist, December 15, 2012)

B.C. must get serious about its water supply (The Province, November 15, 2012)

Slow and easy will win energy race (Vancouver Sun, February 14, 2012)

Flushing away valuable energy (Toronto Sun, March 5, 2009)

Magazine/Newsletter Articles

The Water-Energy Nexus: Our Common Future (Municipal World, August 2013)

Interview: Ben Parfitt on the Water-Energy Nexus (Water Canada, September 2012)

Taming of the Hogs (Alternatives Journal, December 2010)

Shower with a Friend (Alternatives Journal, December 2009)

From Wire to Tap (Canadian Water Treatment, September/October 2009)


The Water-­Energy Nexus: A Western Canadian Perspective—University of Victoria Roundtable on Water Issues (November 2012)

WSP Newsletter

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