Several colleagues have suggested that I ‘blog’ about water-energy issues, which I did a lot of work on in the past decade. I had planned to do that after touching on some of the renewable energy issues that I devoted most of my government career to, but given the importance of this now rapidly emerging issue I will accept this advice and devote my second Post to it. I will start with a little history.
I was never a ‘water person’ until August 1999 when I was invited by the Policy Office at DOE to represent the Department at a meeting in Amman Jordan, to help plan a major water conference for that December that would include the King of Jordan (Hussein), the Prime Minister of Israel (Barak), and the head of the Palestinian Authority (Arafat). My reaction upon being asked was “Why me? I don’t know a damn thing about water except what I read in the papers.” Turns out they wanted someone senior enough to represent the Department, someone with renewable energy expertise, and someone who had dealt with senior officials in other countries. It was also a time when the Clinton Administration was trying hard to negotiate a peace settlement between the PA and Israel, and it was known that sharing of water resources was a major issue on the peace agenda.
I accepted, and three weeks later, after learning as much as I could about desalination and other water issues, I was in Amman as one of a few U.S. representatives at a 2-day conference of about 50 people. The discussions at the meeting sensitized me to the importance of the issue (including a statement by the PA’s Water Minister, Nabil Al Sharif, who said “There will be no peace in the Middle East until the water issue is addressed.”), and when I returned home I decided to educate myself about water-energy issues, a topic on which I have written and spoken extensively in subsequent years.
In terms of getting attention to the issue (there was resistance at that time to addressing the issue within DOE; that may only now be changing) I would have to point to my August 2004 invited paper entitled ‘Water and Energy Security’ (attached). It was published in the newsletter of the Institute for the Analysis of Global Security (IAGS) – I have served as a member of IAGS’ Technical Advisory Board since 2003. Water and Energy Security-IAGS.
In the years since, the water-energy issue, now commonly referred to as the water-energy nexus, has slowly emerged from the woodwork, is now considered a hot topic, and it is widely recognized that water and energy are ‘inextricably linked’. An excellent book on the subject by a colleague, Prof. Gustaf Olsson of Sweden (‘Water and Energy – threats and opportunities’), was published just a year ago by the International Water Association.
In 2010, fulfilling a personal goal of authoring an article with the word ‘conundrum’ in the title, I published an article entitled ‘The Water-Energy Conundrum: Can We Satisfy the Need for Both?’ (attached) in IAGS’ Journal of Energy Security. It takes a ‘30,000 foot’ look at the growing global demand for both resources and the tradeoffs involved. The Water-Energy Conundrum.
I will leave this opening discussion here and hope that the brief discussion above and the attachments will generate many comments on an increasingly important public policy issue.