Friday, December 31, 2010

Water Energy Nexus

This is a post that I am writing in relation to a discussion on a LinkedIn group (Water Professionals) that has become quite interesting and is titled: 'What is the "Water Energy Nexus"'.

The discussion has evolved a bit and has arrived to a stage where maintaining focus on the central discussion sometimes becomes a bit complicated. However there are several things that must be said.

I plan here to attend each one of the points that I find are pertinent for me to discuss, as well as introducing some other relevant points, that have to do with the topic.

Vested Interests
The main challenge of this discussion is the presence of vested interests that are particular to certain industry or market segments, that obviously have an interest in establishing themes or topics to their benefit.

I will start by addressing a comment which is very simple.

To be or not to be, that is the question...
On my first comment in the discussion I stated that the Water Energy Nexus "should not exist", I maintain this. That it is does exist, surely it does, will it exist forever, it is very likely and probable, however this does not justify or approve it's existence.

Commenting to whether it "should" exist or not, is totally and absolutely pertinent, and does not distract whatsoever from the central point of the discussion, similarly as to saying: "should Polio or Small Pox exist?" Surely they do,  they have, they where a huge problem and scourge for humanity when they were prolific, today fortunately we can say they are pretty much under control, if not practically eradicated. I go further and postulate that we should treat the Water Energy Nexus probably in a similar manner.

There is a situation that undoubtedly is of interest to parties who stand to benefit from a Energy Water Nexus. In the measure there is more energy required, or needed to be sold, or bought, for that matter, there will be people interested in driving this agenda. Of course!!! The promotion of things much more unethical is not unheard of, lets take the tobacco industry for example, another example, it seems sad to say, but some people were even opposed to abolition, where people have an agenda they will push it. Not even a few decades ago have people were still defending segregation, not only in the US, but in Australia too, what used to be North and South Rhodesia (Zambia and Zimbabwe),  naming a few, even in South Africa the most recent example... what has this got to do with the Water Energy Nexus though? People will defend things that in hind sight may seem a bit odd, to say the least...

Then we must come and analyse energy then. What an interesting topic, especially now in current times. What is energy? The evolution of how energy has been managed over the years is amazing. From basic human power, to "transportable" and stronger animal power, to what was able to initially power the industrial revolution, a combustible solid, coal, that later gave way to oil and it's derivatives. The parties that controlled sources of energy, also controlled "power" in many more ways than one.

Our current generation has seen the appearance of renewable energy. What a fantastic development! Of many types of renewable energy such as wind, solar, geothermal... who knows how many more will become prevalent.

What is more interesting is the shift that Oil companies have done to become "Energy" companies, how amazing to see how companies like Chevron, now portray themselves as an environmental company! ( It never ceases to shock me when I see their TV commercials, not only when in the US, but also in Australia, also in India, in the Middle East, in South America, where the images are the same and all that changes is the accent of the narrator.

If I were an oil company I would do the same thing, it is very clever. The railway companies were never so smart, after the days of the railway barons. They failed to see that the business was a transport business, not the rail business.

In the same way businesses obviously try and make a business "environment" favourable for there business. A very good example is how General Motors bought and destroyed the California Transit System (, a bit more research will reveal a lot more. It may be "coincidence" that in the discussion we are talking about the same state? Some people say there is no coincidence, only causality. The interesting thing though was that it was not just GM and Ford, to benefit from the absence of a viable mass transit system, also to benefit from this was the Standard Oil Company. Who was to provide the fuel for the cars that would replace the rail system? Who was to supply the oil for lubrication in the engines and chassis of the cars? Who was to supply the rubber for the tyres? Who was to supply the asphalt for the constructions of the same very roads that the cars would roll on? Who was to supply the many synthetic plastic polymer based components that cars would come to be made of?

The appearance of renewable energy sources as viable alternatives is not something that the now "energy" companies love so much in that they are environmental solutions, as much as they will be able to sell a "product" that will never run out, it is literally like a hen who lays golden eggs, though even more so as this "hen" practically does not need to be fed, beyond performing minimum maintenance on the systems.

However this is not also an overnight thing. Renewable energy technologies have a lot more to be developed, they still has long way to go. In the meanwhile though sources of energy have to be assured and made safe for those who want them or need them.

Related to this I invite you to read The Grand Chessboard by Zbigniew Brzezinski.
This book is amazing, Mr. Brezezinski is not a common man, as his CV will tell, he has been the advisor to several presidents of the US. Here are the plans of how the above was to be achieved. It is very notable that just last week world news headlines stated that Iraqi oil production had reached a 20 year high... what a coincidence... (

Yes whichever way we look at it, there are people interested in conserving this Water Energy Nexus. Whether it be renewable energy or not is beside the point. If it is renewable then better, now if we are able to provide water with no requirement of energy that is the optimum situation. That is what I would advocate.

Superseding outdated infrastracture
What of the current infrastructure and the current existing system. What can I say?? That Southern California should not be abandoned? I totally agree, it should not. Could it be made self sustaining though? I would say probably, and even more so, without much expense. That also seems a bit amazing to state that one should not abandon something, from a country that replaced the Pony Express with copper wires and is now doing the same with fibre optics. To my knowledge the Pony Express ran for the last time in October 1861, it has not been missed, beyond a bit of nostalgia. The Pony Express was abandoned only for the benefit of the economy, likewise will happen with copper. Where a cost effective solution is to be found it will likely prosper, though it will find obstacles if there are parties who are not interested in someone else's prosperity but rather their own. Maybe it is better to use the word superseded, instead of abandoned, it has a more positive connotation.  Who knows what technology will replace fibre optics?

So how can this be done? Water without the Energy Nexus. What experience exists?

Experience related to different parts of the water cycle
At every stage of the water cycle things can be done in a sustainable way. However one of the greatest challenges is to have the correct, or rather a better or more adequate,  model of the water cycle.

A relevant document that illustrates this situation is a study done by the government of California:

To address a discussion of mentioning initially how the water cycle should be modelled for a sustainable outcome goes a bit more beyond a simple discussion in a forum or a blog post. How from this, each stage of can be managed in more sustainable manner, also goes beyond this scope. However it can be said simply that the technology exists and has been under development for practically more than 30 years, though it goes beyond just technology and involves mainly concepts and philosophy.

The best way to demonstrate experience is to show case studies:

It can be noticed that not only can we witness considerable amounts of experience in the different stages of the water cycle, there can also be seen experience in amounts of time, but also a significant variety of geography, going from desert climates, to tropics, to temperate regions and practically everything in between. I personally have experience directly in a number of these projects.

So what is the Water Energy Nexus?
As we can see there are several ways of answering this question. One is simply to say: "the amount of energy required for the management of water, including it procurement, processing, supply and distribution and posterior treatment." Another is to say that: it is a way to market energy related applications for water management... and then go on from there...

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