Brattle Principal Mark Berkman recently authored an article for Water Policy on the potential for electricity generation to lead to water shortages in certain regions of the United States due to the high demand for water in the production of electricity.
In the article, Dr. Berkman reviews studies addressing electricity generation and water availability and concludes that electricity production is unlikely to lead to water shortages in most regions for several reasons, beginning with the fact that most studies rely on water withdrawals rather than water consumption to measure gaps between water demand and supply.
According to Dr. Berkman, these studies also fail to account for market dynamics, which will lead to greater water recycling and reuse and new resources on the supply side, and conservation and improved efficiency from new technology on the demand side. Electricity is increasingly generated by low water use technologies, such as solar and wind, in addition to fossil-fired power plant technologies that greatly reduce water withdrawals and consumption.
Additionally, Dr. Berkman argues that policies designed to overcome market failures related to pricing regulation, water rights, and government boundaries can reduce, if not eliminate, widespread electricity and water shortages.
The article, “The electricity–water nexus: is a crisis imminent?” can be downloaded below.