Overview of Water and Energy using recently published USGS Circular 1407: The Water Energy Nexus – An Earth Science Perspective as a resource

2016 Spring Cyberseminar Series

Rick Healy / USGS

Talk Description:

The U.S. faces two significant and sometimes competing challenges: providing sustainable supplies of freshwater for humans and ecosystems and ensuring adequate sources of energy. Water and energy resources are intrinsically linked in many important ways. For example, water is required to extract and process fossil fuels, to grow biofuels, and to cool thermoelectric power plants. A full understanding of the water-energy nexus is limited by uncertainty in our knowledge of some fundamental issues, such as the quantity of freshwater that is available, the amount of water that is used in energy development, and the effects that emerging energy development technologies have on water quality and quantity.  This presentation provides an overview of the complex ways in which water and energy development are interconnected and highlights the earth science research needed to address these important challenges.

Future development of water and energy resources within the U.S. will be guided by policy decisions at local, State, and national levels. Considerations such as population trends, public opinion, the economy, and technology factor into these decisions; however, informed policy decisions should be based on knowledge provided by earth science research and data collection. The role of earth science community is to identify and analyze important technical issues, to describe potential solutions to relevant problems, and to support informed decision making by communicating findings to resource managers, energy producers, and the public. Science improves our understanding of key processes, such as the chemical, physical, and biological reactions occurring in a reservoir during hydraulic fracturing. To remain relevant, earth science data-collection and research efforts must continue to evolve as new development technologies emerge.


Rick Healy is a member of the Unsaturated Zone Field Studies Project of the USGS National Research Program. His research addresses water, solute, and heat transport within the unsaturated zone. He specializes in groundwater recharge and simulation of flow and transport in the unsaturated zone. He received his BS and MS from the University of Illinois.

CUAHSI's Spring 2016 Cyberseminar Series on the Water Energy Nexus!

The interdependence of water and energy is increasingly being recognized with water shortages potentially impacting energy production and vice versa. However, our understanding of the linkages and feedbacks between water and energy is sometimes limited. This webinar series is designed to educate hydrologists and others on the interdependence of water and energy, focusing primarily on water use for energy extraction and electricity generation (secondary form of energy).

Bridget Scanlon from the Bureau of Economic Geology at the University of Texas at Austin hosted this spring cyberseminar series on the "Water Energy Nexus."