Are We Fracking With the Water-Energy Nexus?

What will it take to convince the federal government that water and energy are tightly intertwined…and therefore their respective planning and policy must be closely linked?

The answer might just be: The New York Times.

The newspaper’s recent investigative series on natural gas drilling, which has shed more light on hydrofracking’s adverse impact on water quality, served up yet another reminder that:

  1. The federal government must lead the way in ensuring that energy policies don’t further degrade dwindling freshwater supplies and
  2. Greater collaboration on energy and water resource planning is needed among federal, regional and state agencies as well as with industry, communities and other stakeholders.

These are worthwhile initiatives considering that energy and water are at the heart of the U.S. economy and our quality of life.

As a March 2007 Sandia Laboratories paper recommends: “energy and water must be recognized as highly interdependent critical resources that need to be managed together in a more integrated way to provide reliable energy and water supplies and sustain future national growth and economic development while maintaining the health of ecosystems and the environment.”

A roadmap would be extremely helpful in guiding future energy-water planning, policymaking and management. But wait, wasn’t Sandia Lab preparing such a roadmap?  Yes, that’s right…it was. But it appears to be dead in the water. Before we dig ourselves deeper into a borehole on the natural gas drilling front and latch onto any new ‘silver bullet' solutions with respect to meeting energy demand, the federal government must produce a comprehensive roadmap that ensures sophisticated coordination between overlapping spheres of water and energy. This is a crucial public policy with implications for all Americans especially in terms of human health and quality of life. The cost of not having such a policy could be severe at a time when our national, state and local economies can’t take any more hits.

The New York Times' series on hydrofracking has lit a fire under the EPA as well as state environmental agencies.

Let’s hope it can do the same for encouraging the government to do a better job at integrating management of water and energy resources.

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AUTHOR'S NOTE:

The focus of this post is on fracking and the energy/water nexus. Of course, fracking has implications for food and agriculture as well.

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