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Water for Energy: Systems Integration and Analysis to Address Resource Challenges


Purpose of Review

Water for the energy sector is an interdisciplinary challenge that requires new integrated systems knowledge, well-documented case studies that test various decision processes, and both quantitative and qualitative modeling and analyses to support sustainable decision-making. This review paper highlights water requirements of the energy sector and summarizes interdisciplinary research opportunities for sustainable and efficient management of water for energy, and new datasets to inform analysis of water policies and programs affecting energy systems.

Recent Findings

The energy sector depends closely on water resources for primary fuels production (including extraction or cultivation, processing, and refining) and electric power generation in thermoelectric and hydroelectric power plants. While research in these areas has advanced significantly in recent years, questions remain regarding water quality and quantity impacts of emerging technologies and policies in the water-energy sectors, potential for use of alternative water resources, impact of energy portfolio transitions, and tools to aid decision-making under uncertainty.


Water is essential for energy production and power generation processes. Projected transitions in energy portfolios and water for energy policy hold the potential to both mitigate or exacerbate water stress, therefore motivating a critical need for systems integration and analysis approaches that can guide the development of cost-effective, resource-efficient, and resilient systems and services.

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This research was supported by the Texas A&M WEF Nexus initiative.

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Corresponding author

Correspondence to Ashlynn S. Stillwell.

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Conflict of Interest

Ashlynn S. Stillwell, Ahmed M. Mroue, Joshua B. Sperling, Tyler Hussey, David Burnett, and Michael E. Webber declare no conflicts of interest.

Joshua D. Rhodes is an equity partner in IdeaSmiths LLC, which consults on topics in the same areas of interests. The terms of this arrangement have been reviewed and approved by the University of Texas at Austin in accordance with its policy on objectivity in research.

Margaret A. Cook reports her recent employment with Apache Corporation as of May 30, 2017.

Human and Animal Rights and Informed Consent

This article does not contain any studies with human or animal subjects performed by any of the authors.

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FEW Nexus Workshop on Integrated Science, Engineering, and Policy: A Multi Stakeholder Dialogue. January 26–27, 2017, College Station Texas

This article is part of the Topical Collection on Nexus of Food, Water, Energy

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Stillwell, A.S., Mroue, A.M., Rhodes, J.D. et al. Water for Energy: Systems Integration and Analysis to Address Resource Challenges. Curr Sustainable Renewable Energy Rep 4, 90–98 (2017).

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  • Energy-water nexus
  • Electric power generation
  • Power plant cooling
  • Oil and gas production
  • Hydraulic fracturing