A recent report by the Energy and Water in a Warming World Initiative ("EW3"), entitled Water-Smart Power: Strengthening the U.S. Electricity System in a Warming World, examines the issue of water stress/scarcity with a focus on the interaction between electricity production choices and water resources. It follows a previous (2011) EW3 publication entitled Freshwater Use by U.S. Power Plants, which found that past fuel and cooling technology choices in the power sector have contributed to water stress around the country. The current report "aims to provide critical information to inform decisions on U.S. power plants and the electricity supply, and motivate choices that safeguard water resources, reduce carbon emissions, and provide reliable power at a reasonable price . . . ." (2).
The report, which recognizes that the challenges associated with the "electricity-water landscape" include the impact of climate change on water availability and quality, discusses lessons learned from an investigation into certain electricity production decision-making scenarios and their respective impacts on water withdrawals and consumption, carbon emissions, and power prices. (2-3). The investigation included comparison of a "business as usual" scenario with several low-carbon scenarios (e.g., a carbon capture and storage and nuclear power scenario). The report concludes that the business as usual approach would reduce neither carbon emissions nor water consumption in an appreciable way, at least in the near future; it would be possible to reduce both carbon emissions and effects on water significantly, through use of a pathway focused on renewable energy and energy efficiency; technologies that reduce carbon emissions are not necessarily water-efficient; and combining use of renewable energy with energy efficiency efforts "would be most effective in reducing carbon emissions, pressure on resources, and electricity bills." (4). The report notes that in such a scenario, "[e]nergy efficiency efforts could more than meet growth in demand for electricity, and renewable energy could supply 80 percent of the remaining demand." Id.