Argonne National Laboratory

Water and Energy

Agricultural irrigation system

Agricultural irrigation system

The world’s water systems are undergoing significant stress. Extreme events and changing weather patterns are overwhelming an already inadequate water infrastructure. At the same time, urbanization, population growth and economic development are increasing demand for energy.

Water and energy are tightly intertwined: energy is required to produce clean water and water is required for energy production, for example to cool thermoelectric power plants. Water stewardship is an essential component of a sustainable and resilient energy sector. Water stewardship must consider climate change, population growth and urbanization, and environmental degradation.

Argonne’s water researchers are teaming with social foundations and international health organizations, and state, regional, and local governments, as well as other federal agencies, to focus on freshwater systems, especially in population-dense, water-rich environments having a diverse economic basis.

The team will develop a social decision framework that will consider water as a shared regional resource. The decision framework will consider allocations to support quality of life, ecosystem services, and economic development. This decision framework will allow for the vetting and identification of innovative paradigms, including resource recovery, reuse, alternative sources and shared resources.

The water team will build and refine data, modeling and analysis tools to understand the balance between water supply, demand, and quality. The tools will consider regional climate change impacts, economic development, population dynamics and the state of technology.

Modeling will be used by the team as a primary source of information for evaluating risk in water systems and determining gaps between emerging demand and water supply.

The decision tools will identify gaps in infrastructure and technology performance of sensors and detectors, water treatment, and nutrient recovery. The tools will also indicate best environmental practices to fill in these gaps. It is expected that a tool will be developed for implementing gray and green infrastructure to maximize overall performance.

Building on the success of Argonne’s current water technology research, new technology will be developed that enables the reuse of water, energy and nutrients to create value and enable reused water to economically compete with fresh, clean water.