What is the Water-Energy Nexus?

Present day water and energy systems are interdependent.  Water is used in all phases of energy production and electricity generation. Energy is required to extract, treat and deliver water for human uses. Water and Energy. Energy and water.

These interdependencies are often referred to as the water-energy nexus, and recent developments have focused national attention on these connections. And that hasn’t been lost on us.

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When severe drought affected more than a third of the United States in 2012, limited water availability constrained the operation of some power plants and other energy production activities.  There is now added complexity to the national dialogue on the relationship between energy and water resources.

The findings show that the scale of water use for energy production is tremendous. Some 580 billion cubic metres of freshwater are withdrawn for energy production every year*. At about 15% of the world’s total water withdrawal, the figure is second only to agriculture. To put it another way, the energy sector withdraws water at approximately the same rate that water flows down the Ganges (in India) or Mississippi (in the United States) Rivers – some of the very largest in the world.


Data for Thought

  • Total water withdrawals from all sources in the United States in 2011: 405,868 gallons per person (World Bank, 2011 and United States Census Bureau, 2011)
  • Electric power consumption in the United States in 2011: 13,246 kWh per person (World Bank, 2011)

Water is required to generate energy. Thermoelectric cooling, hydropower, energy mineral extraction and mining, fuel production (including fossil fuels, biofuels, and other non-conventional fuels), and emission controls all rely on large amounts of water. In the United States, the thermoelectric generating industry is the largest withdrawal user of water. According to USGS, 349 billion gallons of freshwater were withdrawn per day in the United States in the year 2005. The largest use, thermoelectric, accounted for 41 percent of freshwater withdrawn at 143 billion gallons per day (BGD).

  • Water withdrawal: The total volume removed from a water source such as a lake or river. Often, a large portion of this water is returned to the source and is available to be used again.
  • Water consumption: The amount of water removed for use and not returned to its source.

Water supply also requires energy use. A large amount of energy is needed to extract, convey, treat, and deliver potable water. Additionally, energy is required to collect, treat, and dispose of wastewater. In 2010, the U.S. water system consumed over 600 billion kWh, or approximately 12.6 percent of the nation’s energy according to a study by researchers at the University of Texas at Austin. The study found water systems use about 25 percent more energy than is used for residential or commercial lighting in the U.S.

Growing population: According to a 2012 United States Census Bureau projection, the U.S. population could reach 400 million people by 2051. Population growth affects energy use through increases in housing, commercial floor space, transportation, and economic activity. The U.S. Energy Information Administration estimates that total electricity consumption will grow from 3,841 billion kWh in 2011 to 4,930 billion kWh in 2040.

Agriculture: Feeding a growing population may require greater agricultural water use.  Agriculture accounts for approximately 37 percent of total freshwater withdrawals in the U.S., and 81 percent of water consumption.



The WETT (Water-Energy Tech Team from the Federal Department of Energy) has drafted The Water-Energy Nexus Challenges and Opportunities, which frames an integrated challenge and opportunity space around the nexus for DOE and its partners and lays the foundation for future efforts.

The WETT has identified six strategic pillars that will serve as the foundation for coordinating R&D:

  1. Optimize the freshwater efficiency of energy production, electricity generation, and end-use technologies
  2. Optimize the energy efficiency of water management, treatment, distribution, and end-use technologies
  3. Enhance the reliability and resilience of energy and water technologies
  4. Increase safe and productive use of nontraditional water sources through improved technology
  5. Promote responsible energy operations with respect to water quality, ecosystem, and seismic impacts
  6. Exploit productive synergies among water and energy system technologies

Aquanomix’s Symphony addresses many of the strategic pillars of challenges and opportunities outlined by the WETT. Symphony manages and optimizes water and energy usage in cooling systems, including in data centers, hospitals, commercial buildings, research and institutions, manufacturing plants, et al.

Marrying the water quality data with the hvac system performance data allows the advanced controls system the opportunity to aggregate and analyze data by running algorithms to determine underperforming system components.

Symphony’s powerful Nexus Number aggregates water quality, water efficiency, energy efficiency data – the first technology of its kind that establishes and explores new relationships surrounding those data sets.

The value in a technology that marries energy and water quality data is powerful. It reveals transparency of operating costs and water quality management at such a granular level. The data supports swift and intelligent decision-making processes, which can save money and improve outcomes in performance.

Aquanomix is poised to support sweeping change throughout the water crisis using our critically important technologies. We know water. We’re ready to promote responsible water usage.


Symphony Homepage Windows Tablet


Thank you to the Department of Energy for information on the WETT. You can find out more about the WETT’s challenges here.

Thank you to the National Conference of State Legislatures for the facts and figures above. You can find out more in the report here.