As drought continues to affect much of the U.S., many observers are thinking critically about the water-energy nexus. A New York Times article points out the myriad ways in which water shortages can threaten energy, from low river levels reducing hydropower output, to cities banning the use of municipal water for hydraulic fracturing. Although we have yet to see water access limit our ability to produce energy, it could lead to higher energy prices, particularly for natural gas, which will increasingly require water recycling and freshwater transport from non-local sources. Biofuels will also increase in price, if crops fail and biofuel producers have to compete with livestock producers for a lower corn harvest.
Although some states have enacted legislation to address the water-energy nexus, many have not. At the federal level, legislation has been introduced, but failed to progress into law. Senator Jeff Bingaman (D – NM) introduced legislation to the 112th Congress that would conduct an analysis of the impact of energy development and production on the water resources of the U.S., but with Congress in recess, it is unlikely to be put to a vote this year.
What do water shortages mean for the current energy mix? Are there policies, at the local, state or federal level, that can address the risk of water shortages impacting energy production?