Journal Title

Ecology and Society (online)





First Page

Article 2

Document Type


Publication Information



As we confront the challenges posed by climate change, decisions on supplying energy and water to the world’s growing population should no longer be made in isolation. The challenges facing Texas and the rest of the globe require that we recognize the deep inter‐connections and trade‐offs involved in deciding how to meet power and water needs in an increasingly resource‐constrained world.

This report is the first in a series designed to explore aspects of the energy‐water nexus in Texas. It examines the water requirements for various types of electricity generating facilities, both for typical systems nationwide and here in Texas. It also addresses the use of energy by water supply and wastewater treatment systems, comparing national averages with Texas‐specific values.

Future installments in this report series will include case studies of the implications for energy of future water supply strategies for Texas and more place‐specific water supply implications of the future fuel mix for electricity production. There are several other aspects of the energy‐water nexus that are being investigated by several other entities but are not contemplated in this series, including hydroelectric power generation, unconventional fossil fuel production, and the development of biofuels such as ethanol.

Analysis of available data for Texas reveals that approximately 157,000 million gallons (482,100 acre‐feet) of water annually – enough water for over 3 million people for a year, each using 140 gallons per person per day – are consumed for cooling the state’s thermoelectric power plants while generating approximately 400 terawatt‐hours (TWh) of electricity. At the same time, each year Texas uses an estimated 2.1 to 2.7 TWh of electricity for water systems and 1.1 to 2.2 TWh for wastewater systems each year –enough electricity for about 100,000 people for a year. These estimates for water and wastewater combined represent approximately 0.8 to 1.3% of total Texas electricity and 2.2 to 3.4% of industrial electricity use annually. The report presents a geographic distribution of the current water use for electricity generation and electricity use for water supply and wastewater treatment, which may be useful as policymakers begin to examine these aspects of the energy‐water nexus.

Recommended Citation

Ashlynn Stillwell, Carey King, Michael Webber, Ian Duncan, and Amy Hardberger. 2011. The energy-water nexus in Texas. Ecology and Society 16(1): 2. [online] URL:

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