As part of ELEEP's 18-month EU-US Energy and Climate Dialogue funded by the European Union, ten members of the ELEEP Network took part in a study tour on the Energy-Water-Climate Change Nexus in the American Southwest. During the tour, which lasted from 7 until 12 July 2013, the ELEEP Members travelled to New Mexico (Santa Fe and Albuquerque), Arizona (Phoenix and Flagstaff), and Nevada (Hoover Dam and Las Vegas).
The Southwestern part of the United States is a particularly relevant place to investigate the nexus between energy, water, and climate change. This part of the United States has a large and growing population, which requires an increasing amount of electricity overwhelmingly derived from thermal, fossil-fuel driven power plants. (The transportation sector is also dependent on fossil fuels.) These power plants require large amounts of water, leading to competition with water needs from people and agriculture, as there are limited supplies of water in this arid and semi-arid region of the United States. Further, climate change is exacerbated by the use of fossil fuels; climate change impacts then affect water supplies and is creating feedbacks to the energy system as well as reverberating in energy and water needs of the populations in this region.
In order to gain firsthand knowledge of how policymakers, regulators, business leaders, researchers, and others understand and are addressing these issues, the ELEEP Members met with a wide variety of stakeholders and actors. On the government side, the participants had a wide variety of meetings, including with: the New Mexico Bureau of Reclamation; the Office of the Mayor of Phoenix, Arizona; the New Mexico State Engineer as well as the Energy, Minerals, and Natural Resources Department of New Mexico; the Arizona Department of Water Resources; the Southern Nevada Water Authority (SNWA); and the Nevada Bureau of Reclamation.
From the research perspective, the Members had meetings at the Los Alamos National Laboratory and the Sandia National Laboratory. Additionally, researchers from Northern Arizona University and the University of New Mexico Law School met with the members to discuss nexus-research being done on their campuses. To gain a business perspective, meetings were scheduled with PNM, an electric utility in the Southwest, Southwest Gas (in Las Vegas), and the Intel Corporation. The Members also had a chance to tour the Central Arizona Project, a water diversion canal supplying water from the Colorado River to Phoenix and the surrounding area. They also toured the Hoover Dam, where the interaction of water, energy, and climate change is also acutely evident.
The key lessons gleaned from the week by the Members will be presented in an upcoming ELEEP publication.