In the last year, conflicts between energy needs and water quality and supply have increased and caught national media attention. Some of the protests against the Keystone XL pipeline were based on fears about potential for contamination of water. Opposition to shale gas development also draws heavily on worries about water pollution. And 2011 saw power plant output threatened, not by fuel shortfalls, but by shortages of cooling water.
With the economic recession wreaking havoc on local budgets, high and rising public debt is making it far less plausible that government will be able to buy our way out of energy and water scarcity.
How can energy and water challenges be addressed in light of these new economic realities? On what institutions should we rely to make the essential trade-offs? Is new technology the answer, and, if so, what technology, and how should it be fostered?
The first panel gave brief overviews of the main challenges posed by the energy water nexus. A second panel critically assessed current proposed solutions.