People often think of scientists as solitary types, working alone in our labs, focused on a narrow topic. But if that was ever true, it’s not now. Scientific discovery and creating new technologies don’t fit in a box. That’s certainly the case with questions involving water and energy, and the so-called water-energy nexus has gained attention from both the government and from researchers over the past few years. The two intersect like this: Producing clean water requires energy – to treat the water, to distribute the water and so on – while it takes water to produce energy, from generating electricity to blasting chemicals and sand into shale rock to extract oil and natural gas. Water is a key component of the cooling process in utility plants powered by fossil fuels, and it generates electricity directly in the case of hydroelectricity. Drought can affect power plants by limiting water availability. Similarly, water treatment plants can be shut down when a storm knocks out the power supply.
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