By Velda Addison, Hart Energy

Given that water remains a critical yet finite resource for the energy sector among others worldwide, hopes are that a funding opportunity announcement (FOA) will lure some savvy innovators and millions of dollars more to address energy-water nexus challenges.

The U.S.-China Clean Energy Research Center (CERC) has issued a $12.5 million FOA for a new U.S.-based research consortium focused on water-related aspects of energy production and use. Working with researchers in China, the consortium would aim to find ways to help ensure energy, water and environmental security in addition to combating climate change, according to a news release from the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE).

So what’s the urgency? There are several reasons why the U.S. government is pushing this effort.

  • Population growth especially in the Southwest and the region’s drought-prone weather could impact water systems and energy demand;
  • New technologies in the energy and water sectors could shift the demand for both resources;
  • Policy developments addressing the water impacts of energy production are adding complexities for decision making; and
  • U.S. precipitation and temperature patterns are rapidly changing, with events gaining frequency and intensity, the DOE said.

“As both the challenges and opportunities at the energy-water nexus within the U.S. are mirrored in China, productive research collaboration is expected to benefit both nations,” the DOE said in the release.

In addition to the $12.5 million in DOE funding, there will be a $12.5 million recipient cost share for the five-year program. China will contribute $25 million for the program.

The funding must be applied to five areas. These include treatment and management of nontraditional waters. Among the areas of interest are technologies to reduce water use in energy development such as waterless stimulation as an alternative to hydraulic fracturing. These solutions also include innovative desalination-related and other water treatment technologies that could help transform saline water, including brackish groundwater and produced water from energy operations, into water resources.

The other four areas are:

  • Water use reduction at thermoelectric plants;
  • Improving sustainable hydropower design and operation;
  • Climate impact modeling, methods and scenarios to support improved energy and water systems understanding; and
  • Data and analysis to inform planning, policy and other decisions.

“Water resource scarcity, variability and uncertainty are impacting energy systems in the U.S. and China,” said DOE Secretary Ernest Moniz. “Increasing collaboration through CERC engages the technical resources of both countries, opening opportunities for researchers and industrial partners to address our common challenges in the energy-water nexus. By leveraging science, technology and innovation, we can ensure our collective energy and water security.”

More information about the solicitation to address the energy-water nexus is available at

Contact the author, Velda Addison, at