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The Energy–Water Nexus: Managing the Links between Energy and Water for a Sustainable Future

Karen Hussey, Senior Lecturer, Fenner School of Environment and Society, The Australian National University
Jamie Pittock, Program Leader, Australia and United States–Climate, Energy and Water, US Studies Centre, Sydney

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.5751/ES-04641-170131

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Abstract

Water and energy are each recognized as indispensable inputs to modern economies. And, in recent years, driven by the three imperatives of security of supply, sustainability, and economic efficiency, the energy and water sectors have undergone rapid reform. However, it is when water and energy rely on each other that the most complex challenges are posed for policymakers. Despite the links and the urgency in both sectors for security of supply, in existing policy frameworks, energy and water policies are developed largely in isolation from one another—a degree of policy fragmentation that is seeing erroneous developments in both sectors. Examples of the trade-offs between energy and water security include: the proliferation of desalination plants and interbasin transfers to deal with water scarcity; extensive groundwater pumping for water supplies; first-generation biofuels; the proliferation of hydropower plants; decentralized water supply solutions such as rainwater tanks; and even some forms of modern irrigation techniques. Drawing on case studies from Australia, Europe, and the United States, this Special Issue attempts to develop a comprehensive understanding of the links between energy and water, to identify where better-integrated policy and management strategies and solutions are needed or available, and to understand where barriers exist to achieve that integration. In this paper we draw out some of the themes emerging from the Special Issue, and, particularly, where insights might be valuable for policymakers, practitioners, and scientists across the many relevant domains.

Key words

energy policy; energy–water nexus; integrated planning; policy integration; water policy
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Ecology and Society. ISSN: 1708-3087