Water scarcity challenges industries around the world. Global population growth and economic development suggest a future of increased demand, competition, and cost for limited freshwater supplies. Scarcer water, in turn, creates new challenges for energy supply because coal, oil, gas, and electricity production can require massive amounts of freshwater. Yet many countries will need more energy for energy-intensive water treatment options, like seawater desalination, to meet their growing demand for water.

This report illustrates these emerging risks and offers ideas for finding solutions at the water-energy nexus.

WRI engages with companies through thought leadership and impact funding partnerships. General Electric co-authored and provided funding for this report.

Key Findings

Innovation at the water-energy nexus involves thinking differently about how industries meet their customers’ water and energy needs. Companies doing business at the water-energy nexus can:

  • Acknowledge emerging risks to supplies of water and energy, but don’t overlook solutions that address demand.
  • Take full advantage of water reuse and energy recovery.
  • Shift demand to alternative water options and clean energy resources.
  • Create new partnerships and business models.

Companies can also find new opportunities in reducing demand and scaling alternative approaches, including:

  • Inclusive approaches that recognize the benefits of gender mainstreaming and local stakeholder engagement in water and energy resource decisions.
  • Ambitious cross-sector goals for end-use energy efficiency, water reuse, decentralized clean energy, and smart infrastructure.
  • Financial due diligence with innovative and forward-thinking approaches to pricing carbon and valuing water.