Friday, April 17, 2009

Water you looking at?

Now that the EPA has finally sprung into gear acknowledging climate change as a looming threat, it's go-time on figuring out how exactly we're going to price these so-called "carbon trades." It's an interesting problem that some pretty excellent minds are tackling. Last Friday, I attended the Environmental Defense Fund's 9th (and final) State Water Conference where the final panel consisted of a lengthy discussion of the Water/Energy Nexus.

Apparently, it is cutting edge thinking to associate water usage with energy production and to measure the amount of energy it takes to pump, treat and manage water (and wastewater for that matter). Amy Hardberger, by far the most entertaining presenter of the day, walked the audience through the basics of energy and water's mutual dependence. It's a rare feat to get several dozen people alert and chuckling after 5 hours of previous presentations, but Amy was somehow able to do it. Her paper (written with several others) is available online and easily accessible reading. I'm currently putting an unprecedented level of effort into learning about resource management, but was grateful to have such handy schematics and simplistic explanations at my disposal.

To paraphrase the discussion, reductions in energy can result in reductions of water usage, because water is most often the agent used for dissipating waste heat generated by power plants. Similarly, water conservation can save on energy costs by reducing the amount of work needed to process and pump water. A more complicated problem resides in the valuation of these respective environmental effects, but at least we've got some talented, entertaining people working on it.

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