May 7, 2014
By Leandra Bernstein
Alaskan Senator Lisa Murkowski addressed the Atlantic Council on Tuesday, May 6, to promote legislation focused on the energy-water nexus (Nexus of Energy and Water for Sustainability [NEWS] Act, S. 1971). The discussion revolved around energy and water resources as "inseparable," citing the use of more than 12 billion gallons of fresh water consumed daily for the combined production of fuels and energy across the country.
Her bill calls for the establishment of interagency coordination between the Department of Energy, the Department of the Interior and other federal agencies to ensure the future availability of both water and energy resources.
Murkowski explained that the United States must take leadership in the development of technology to meet future needs. Research has already been done by Australia, Singapore, the Gulf States, and Israel to reduce the costs and operational challenges of water desalination. The U.S., said Murkowski, should collaborate with these nations and leverage existing research.
"The development of new and improved technologies can answer the needs of both the domestic and international energy-water markets," said the Senator. "This could mean opportunities for job creators in high-tech, R&D and manufacturing." Concluding that while conservation efforts could reduce demand, it can only go so far. The solution, according to Murkowski, lies essentially in new technologies and best practices to bring those technologies into use.
When asked what the potential is for U.S.-Canada collaboration on water resources, Murkowski warned that cooperation can be jeopardized as resources become scarce or supplies are negatively impacted. "It all works better if we have established a good working relationship well ahead of any shortages, any concerns or any stress to the management systems."
She further emphasized a problem addressed by S. 1971, which is the lack of data-sharing between federal agencies, leading to an incomplete picture of the use and accessibility of water and energy resources. "We need to understand what it is that we have. Canada needs to understand [what they have]," Murkowski stated. "That allows for better levels of collaboration and cooperation. When you don't think you have enough, everyone gets antsy."
About the Author: Leandra Bernstein is a freelance journalist with a strong interest in water and power security for the United States.