GAO Study of the Energy-Water Nexus

The General Accountability Office (GAO) carried out a study entitled “Energy-Water Nexus:  Amount of Energy Needed to Supply, Use, and Treat Water is Location-Specific and Can Be Reduced by Certain Technologies and Approaches.”  The purpose of the study is to describe what is known about:  1) the energy needed for the urban water lifecycle; and 2) the technologies and approaches that could lessen the energy needed for the lifecycle, as well as barriers to adopting them.  To address both of these objectives, GAO undertook efforts to:

  • Conduct a systematic review of studies and other documents that examine the energy required to extract, move, use, and treat water, including peer-reviewed scientific and industry periodicals, government-sponsored research, and reports from nongovernmental research organizations;
  • Interview specialists from drinking water and wastewater utilities; Federal, state, and local government offices responsible for water or energy; and relevant nonprofit groups, about the energy needed to move, use, and treat water; and
  • Develop case studies of three cities (i.e., Memphis, San Diego, and Washington, D.C.) to help understand the energy demands of the lifecycle in different areas of the country.

GAO does not make any recommendations in this report.  A draft was provided to the Departments of Defense, Energy (DOE), and the Interior, and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).  DOE and EPA provided technical comments, which were incorporated as appropriate.  For more information and to view this study, visit the GAO web site at: