The Uncertain Future of the Water-Energy Nexus Under Climate Change

Monday, 15 December 2014
Donatella Pasqualini1, Riccardo Boero1 and Nathan M Urban2, (1)Los Alamos National Laboratory, DSA4, Los Alamos, NM, United States, (2)Los Alamos National Lab, Los Alamos, NM, United States
Electricity generation is the largest consumer of fresh water in the United States. Recently, climate change has increased stress on the water supply, intensifying the vulnerability of the essential link between energy and water. Our study assesses the USA water-energy nexus vulnerability to climate change. Each year, the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) projects and analyzes the future of energy production in distinct regions of the United States under several economic scenarios. These scenarios support the evaluation of policy proposals in terms of energy security and emissions. In order to estimate the impact of climate change on the water-energy nexus, we coupled the EIA energy scenarios with predictions by global circulation models. Specifically, we quantified the stress imposed on fresh-water availability by energy production in the United States under different climate scenarios. One interesting aspect of our study considered the uncertainties derived by climate models and technologies adopted in energy production and how these uncertainties propagate through the impact analysis. We assessed the impact of different policies scenarios under the climate scenarios developed by Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change in the United States.