Informing Planning and Policy Processes

CERC-WET research will provide critical insights to guide decision making at the nexus of energy-water management in the U.S. and China. Our project portfolio in this area will: (i) identify technology and energy development pathways to maximize water/energy efficiency and greenhouse gas (GHG) reduction; (ii) highlight climate impacts on future energy development paths along with water limits to future energy development in key regions of China and California; and (iii) analyze policies and provide recommendations for optimal co-control of energy and water based on a deep understanding of the tradeoffs and benefits of joint planning, investment, and management in the water and energy sectors.

Topic Area 5 Projects


Project 5.1: Life-cycle systems analyses of the water-energy processes and technologies

Arpad Horvath, UC BerkeleyArpad Horvath, UC Berkeley
CV | Website

Context: Life-cycle assessment is needed for energy and water footprint analyses of water and energy systems.

Objectives: Collect data on operating practices for water and energy systems, establish and analyze several case study water and energy systems in diverse geographic settings assuming typical existing technologies to serve as a baseline for future analyses, analyze innovative (i.e., implemented but not widely adopted) water and energy technologies, analyze emerging water-efficient energy technologies


Over the course of the 5-year project period, we will conduct a techno-economic-environmental analysis to inform investment priorities for energy- and water-related systems and technologies, using LCCA to track economic costs and benefits and LCA to quantify environmental effects of products, processes, or systems from raw material procurement to disposal, recycling, or reuse. We will expand and/or adapt prior research on developing LCA tools for urban water systems, water efficiency LCAs, and carbon abatement cost (CAC) curves for water technologies to Chinese conditions, as well as develop similar methods and/or tools for evaluating water use and related environmental effects in energy systems. The overarching question we plan to address is: Which are the most cost- and resource-efficient technologies that can be implemented under a range of current and projected future conditions in order to explore the United States’ and China’s water-energy nexus? 

In Year 1 to date, we have started reviewing published literature and ongoing research to understand the water and wastewater system in China. We have begun adapting our existing Water-Energy Sustainability Tool (WEST; to Chinese conditions (e.g., incorporating energy and other emission factors). This revised tool will be released for wider use after revisions. We will work with our Chinese and Topic Area 5 collaborators to identify case studies that can be used to compare the performance of water and energy systems for baseline, business-as-usual conditions and assuming selected innovative and emerging water- and/or energy-efficient technologies are adopted. Once the case studies are identified, we will begin collecting data on existing infrastructure and operating practices.  

Project 5.2:  Integrated National and Regional Scale Modeling Of Energy and Water Systems

Nan Zhou, LBNLNan Zhou, LBNL
CV | Website

Context: Integrated approach needed to evaluate the water footprint of energy, the energy footprint of water, and climate change impacts on both. 

Objectives: Design approach for analyzing climate, water, and energy; study climate, water and energy linkages in U.S. and China case studies; find energy development pathways that reduce CO2 emissions without raising water use requirements; find new water supply options that don't increase CO2 emissions.

China is rapidly expanding its energy production capabilities, building new coal mines in the arid north, coal liquefaction and coal gasification facilities in the desert steppes of north-central China, shale gas operations in the arid western parts of China, tight oil extraction in the Ordos, and major hydropower facilities in the south. Meanwhile, States in the Southwest of the USA are facing prolonged drought accompanied by decreased hydro-generation and rising energy requirements to maintain water supplies. For example, urban areas are looking at expanding energy-intensive desalinization to supplement potable water supplies at a time when conservation efforts promise to lower total water deliveries. The intertwined nature of water and energy use means that co-management is essential for the future sustainability of these activities. We will develop integrated assessment (IA) capabilities to allow stakeholders to observe the tradeoffs between multiple options and policy decisions and to test hypotheses/premises in a scenario-driven environment. For China, we anticipate that this project will highlight the advantages of lower emission energy development, including more demand management and renewable energy options that tend to use less water. For California, we anticipate developing a parallel model to access integrated water-energy system greenhouse gas emissions. The latter research will be paired with research in Topic Area 4 to evaluate the integrated model of climate change-impacted hydrological patterns, electric grid resource dispatch, and other oil refining and shale gas development.

The project will (1) develop a framework to evaluate water limits to energy source demands for selected energy development scenarios; (2) illustrate climate impacts on future water-energy development paths; (3) model water limits of future energy development in key regions of China and in California; and (4) influence Chinese and Californian policy to ensure that energy-water supplies and demands and are consistent with available resources, now and in the future. Year 1 tasks include reviewing water-energy literature and models, identifying and strengthening relationships with relevant policymakers and research institutes in China and California, defining energy development and water supply scenarios, and developing water-energy models for China and California. We will draw on our detailed LEAP-based China Energy End-Use Model to develop both the energy supply and demand scenarios for evaluation. These energy models will be linked to water assessment tools (including WEAP) to evaluate water supplies in key energy regions of China and to reveal possible water limits to energy growth. This research will build upon work with similar water-energy models to evaluate how water supply limits energy generation in California. Our research will result in policy recommendations for optimal low carbon energy source scenarios based on current and expected water availability. Regional and national policymakers and planners will benefit from water-energy models that illustrate the impacts of acute water shortages on China’s energy development plans.

Project 5.3: Modeling complex water-energy systems

Annette Huber-Lee, Stockholm Environment InstituteAnnette Huber-Lee, Stockholm Environment Institute
CV | Website

Context: Planning for water, food, and energy systems confronts growing resource scarcity and deep uncertainty, including climate change. As such infrastructure and policy decisions need to be resilient, which can be achieved via robust decision techniques.

Objective: Use participatory robust decision support across national , regional and city scales to enable actions - both infrastructure and/or policies - that are most resilient in the face of resource constraints and key uncertainties, for example, water shortage, energy transition, climate change, economic and demographic shifts and political changes.

 Both California/SW US and China have committed to ambitious targets in terms of the use of fossil fuel and associated greenhouse gas emissions, as well as policies to improve the sustainable use of water resources. As such, the need for policy harmonization through the deployment of integrated water and energy solutions is consistent across both settings. The challenge of identifying and implementing these solutions within a policy and regulatory environment that largely separates energy and water planning and decision making is also a consistent theme. One difference between California and China is the degree to which public participation will shape efforts to implement integrated water and energy solutions. In California, local initiatives, informed by the public participation requirements of the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) will inform decisions. In China, decisions will predominantly rest in the hands of local officials charged with complying with targets set at the national level. In both cases, however, the energy and water management institutions charged with implementing energy and water policy are separate, distinct, and only loosely connected.

The overall technical approach taken in this research will be to deploy nested models of the energy and water systems that capture the state/regional and national systems while allowing for the evaluation of local initiatives within a formal decision making under uncertainty framework. This framework, referred to as Robust Decision Support, requires the participation of appropriate energy and water actors, who typically do not engage in joint planning and decision making, in a series of formal workshops guided by the deployment of models in support of the evaluation of potential integrated energy and water solutions.

In Year One, we are assembling decision-makers and stakeholders for water management in China and California, including energy planners, agriculturalists, city suppliers, and environmental delegates, for participatory workshops to explore system dynamics as part of Robust Decision Support (RDS) for long-term strategic planning. The workshops will collect data characterizing infrastructure, pricing schedules, demand, supply and potential supply variability, and management goals for the future. Over the rest of the project period, we will: (1) construct MYWAS models for case study areas in China and California using the workshop data and other data; (2) conduct system analyses for MYWAS models to optimize water allocation according to economic principles for maximizing benefits; (3) use scenario analyses to explore the implementation of various management decisions on externalities such as climate change, and their impacts on the management goals identified in the RDS framework; and (4) provide guidance to the CERC-WEST Consortium about the socio-economic tradeoffs associated with different water allocations and policies, considering energy use, environmental requirements, domestic demand requirements, and food security concerns.   

Project 5.4: Recycled water scenarios for electricity generation

Annette Huber-Lee, Stockholm Environment InstituteJR DeShazo, UCLA
CV | Website

Context: Scenarios for a recycled-water dependent electricity sector are needed for input cost estimation and climate change adaptation planning. 

Objective: Develop scenarios using a multidisciplinary approach (i.e. economic, engineering, and legal analyses) for California's electricity generation sector which rely on recycled water; assess existing contract structures and consider alternative agreements between recycled water suppliers and thermal power customers. 


The goal of this task is to develop scenarios for a recycled-water dependent electricity sector in the context of increased urban water conservation, which also takes climate change effects into account. These scenarios can then be used as a foundation for water-energy decision making in California for adaptation planning and adjusting the electricity sector to the demands of climate change.
The CERC-WET team will develop multiple scenarios for California’s electricity generation sector that consider the potential consequences for generation if there is a high degree of reliance on recycled water, coupled with various high urban water conservation scenarios. The scenario development will use a multidisciplinary approach that may include at a minimum economic analysis, engineering approaches, and legal analyses. The team will document how consideration was made of institutional and climate change related barriers to successful adoption of alternative water supplies to support reliable electricity generation.

The team will also prepare a Legal Analysis Report of Recycled Water Contracts for the Electricity Sector that examines and analyzes the existing contract structure between recycled water suppliers and thermal power customers, and consider alternative contract structures that may increase the flexibility of the system. The work will also include Lifecycle System Analysis of the Water Energy Processes and Technologies. 

Project 5.5: Market Characterization of Non - Traditional Waters in California

Arpad Horvath, UCBArpad Horvath, UCB
CV | Website

David Sedlak, UCBDavid Sedlak, UCB
CV | Website

Context: Non-Traditional water sources could augment to uses of traditional water sources.

Objectives: Identify sources (processes and location), quantities, and current uses of non-traditional waters; identify new applications that may be available through current and near term treatment technologies; estimate energy use per volume of non-traditional waters treated; estimate cost targets for successful commercialization; provide guidance on the most promising technologies and sectors/industries and the potential for cost-effective treatment and reuse in California.

 The CERC research team will prepare a Market Characterization Report that will identify the sources (processes and location) and quantities of non-traditional waters generated annually and/or existing in California.

The team will also identify current uses such as agricultural, municipal and industrial of non-traditional waters and identify new applications that may be available through current and near term treatment technologies.
The team will research how the current state of near term (5-10 years) for CERC-WET techologies and if/how it benefits California. The research will identify the technical and regulatory barriers, including any disposal requirements associated with the treatment methodology for each technology.  We will also crreate rating for estimated energy consumption per gallon of non-traditional waters treated (e.g., kWh consumption/gallon of non-traditional waters treated) and estimated time to maturity for each of the technologies. The rating will be an approximate range of values (e.g., time to maturity = 2-5 years, 6-8

years, 9-12 years). The team will estimate cost targets (e.g., in $/1,000L, including capital and operating) needed for successful commercialization in California and identify economic or industrial sectors where prototype testing or demonstration projects will be most technically and economically practicable for use of treated non-traditional waters. 


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