Best Drupal HostingBest Joomla HostingBest Wordpress Hosting

World Policy Journal is proud to share our weekly podcast, World Policy On Air, featuring former Newsweek On Air host David Alpern with timely insights from global affairs analyst Michael Moran of, risk and geostrategy consultants. Click here to subscribe on iTunes!



The Water-Energy Nexus


By Ashley M. Knotts

Energy production technologies and trends in energy consumption have changed drastically over the last century.  Rapid population growth, increasingly energy-demanding lifestyles, and the exploitation of energy resources from fossil fuels to nuclear power have all helped to shape this vastly different energy landscape.  They have also prompted the need for a closer look into the economic, environmental, and security implications of energy alternatives, and the increasing demand these alternatives are placing on water resources.  To address these issues, Diana Glassman, a consultant to EBG Capital, introduced her new World Policy Institute paper, titled “The Water-Energy Nexus: Adding Water to the Energy Agenda.” The paper—co-authored by WPI President Michele Wucker and WPI Research Associates Tanushree Isaacman and Corinne Champilou—aims to provide non-partisan, comprehensive information about the role of water in energy production. 

On Tuesday, the World Policy Institute, in collaboration with Bloomberg New Energy Finance and EBG Capital, hosted the launch of Glassman’s paper to a diverse audience, including professionals in the economic, political, health, and environmental sectors.  Glassman was joined by Jon Anda, the head of UBS Securities Environmental Markets Group, and Bill Bellamy, Senior Vice President and Water Technology Fellow at CH2M Hill, for a discussion moderated by Dimitra Christakou, the head of Water Services at Bloomberg New Energy Finance. The three discussed the struggle between water and energy needs, and the ways in which water quality and abundance are being considered—or neglected—on the energy agenda. 

Glassman and Bellamy began by explaining that, although carbon-reducing technologies may offer a cleaner alternative to coal, growing populations and the globalization of consumption-driven lifestyles will undoubtedly make water scarcity an important security and economic issue. Anda agreed, emphasizing that policymakers must consider the implications of acting too quickly or relying too heavily on water to satisfy energy needs.  According to Anda, it is especially important not to focus on the use of water for energy to the exclusion of alternatives that may prove to be more cost-effective and environmentally friendly.

Anda was particularly keen to note that it is natural to question the advantages of nuclear technology in the wake of recent events in Japan. Yet he argued that policymakers, environmentalists, and individuals should not be too quick to reject this carbon-free energy source—especially when one considers the financial, safety, and ecological risks associated with alternatives like coal mining and deep-sea drilling.

The panelists also touched briefly on the economic implications of water consumptive energy production in water scarce regions.  Questions on the table included who will pay for water, how much it will cost, and should access to water be free, since it is difficult to determine who owns “water rights.”

Bellamy pointed out that we have already seen the effects of water scarcity on energy production in India, where consumption is exceeding energy output in water-scarce regions.  He suggested that the problem will only grow along with the world’s population and modernization, which will result in increased energy and water consumption. Glassman took an optimistic tone in observing that ongoing research and development in areas like green jet fuel and natural gas-fired power plants might offer potential alternatives to coal and other water consumptive sources of energy. 

The discussion was intended to be more of an examination of the water-energy nexus than an opportunity to offer prescriptive options. But one clear message that emerged was that energy policy must be developed in a way that carefully balances water availability and quality, national security, and financial costs and benefits, without losing sight of the short- and long-term environmental effects of these decisions.

Ashley M. Knotts is an editorial assistant at World Policy Journal.

Photo courtesy of Flickr user Ontario Power Generation


Anonymous's picture
Symmetery of the Second Equations;

Economics, water; security, energy, policy in a one for all platform is most difficult to advocate I have come to believe. In this paper summed very well, we have an opportunity to bridge the four main causes of the stress I see in the field. The chemical, the physical; the electromagtic and the emotional fields of stress, either when reflecting on our infrastructure as farmlands or my neighbors sense of their Garden in this dialog. Coupling both is the best approach I think asto continue a transparent flow of energy and consensus..Well done, and the abstract motivates me to continue to learn as much as evidence-based allows for. vr Jim P. White, Pittsburgh, Pa. Truman Inst, Op/Free councils,Pa
Post new comment
The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly. If you have a Gravatar account, used to display your avatar.
This question is for testing whether you are a human visitor and to prevent automated spam submissions.
Enter the characters shown in the image. Ignore spaces and be careful about upper and lower case.


Around WPI

Jihad in Sub-Saharan Africa 

This paper, “Jihad in Sub-Saharan Africa: Challenging the Narratives of the War on Terror,” examines the history of Islamic movements in Africa's Sahel region to contextualize current conflicts.

World Economic Roundtable with Vicente Fox 

In this World Economic Roundtable, former Mexican President Vicente Fox discusses his current quest to make his country a hub for technology. 

Intern at World Policy

Want to join our team? Looking for an experience at one of the most highly sought-after internships for ambitious students? Application details here.


Al Gore presides over Arctic Roundtable 

As the United States prepares to assume chairmanship of the Arctic Council in 2015, this inaugural convening of the Arctic Deeply Roundtables launches a vital conversation for our times. 


When the Senate Worked for Us:
New book offers untold stories of how activist staffers countered corporate lobbies in the U.S.

MA in International Policy and Development
Middlebury Institute (Monterey, CA): Put theory into practice through client-based coursework. Apply by Feb. 1.

Millennium Project’s State of the Future 19.0: Collective Intelligence on the Future of the World


To learn about the latest in media, programming, and fellowship, subscribe to the World Policy Weekly Newsletter and read through our archives.

World Policy on Facebook