"Water has become the Achilles heel of some energy projects", said Michael Hightower who leads the Water for Energy Project at Sandia National Laboratories in Albuquerque, USA. He noted at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, that many of the world's energy resources are in very dry areas.
"Supplies are growing increasingly scarce in many US basins". "The Thirsty Triangle: The Water Footprint of Energy Trade Between China, Canada, and the United States." Permits for some renewable and conventional energy facilities already have been denied because water supplies weren't available, he said.
"We eventually could see 50% less than there is today in several of them," Hightower said, adding, "When the US surface water inventory reached its peak in 1980 and no new dams were constructed, energy industries turned to groundwater. They've mined that to a point now that they're producing more salt than fresh water. It's unsustainable."
Hightower said that three good technologies for reducing carbon emissions—nuclear power, concentrated solar, and carbon capture and sequestration—also require a lot of water.
Qingwei Sun, a climate and energy campaign with Greenpeace China, confirmed that country's energy and water supplies are in different areas.
"The Canadians have done a very good job of recycling water they use for oil sands production, and have used brackish water in some cases," Hightower said. "The same thing is happening in the US where producers who wanted only freshwater 3-4 years ago are recycling and use water with higher total dissolved solids levels.
"Canada's oil and gas industry is a few years ahead, but the US is catching up," he observed. "Water costs are the reason why."