Hearings and Business Meetings

SD-366 Energy Committee Hearing Room 02:30 PM

Dr. James Roberto

Testimony of
Deputy Director for Science and Technology
(S. 1860)
before the
October 20, 2005
Oak Ridge National Laboratory
P.O. Box 2008
Oak Ridge, Tennessee 37831-6240
managed by
UT-Battelle, LLC
for the U.S. Department of Energy
under contract DE-AC05-00OR22725

U. S. Senate
Committee on Energy and Natural Resources
Hearing Testimony
The Energy-Water Efficiency and Supply Technology Research, Development, and Transfer
Program Act (S. 1860)
James B. Roberto
Deputy Director for Science and Technology
Oak Ridge National Laboratory
October 20, 2005

Mr. Chairman and Members of the Committee:
My name is James Roberto, and I am the Deputy Laboratory Director for Science and
Technology at Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL). My role at ORNL is to oversee the Laboratory’s science and technology programs, including physical and materials sciences, neutron sciences, biological and environmental sciences, advanced computing, energy and engineering, and national security. ORNL is a Department of Energy multiprogram laboratory managed by UT-Battelle, LLC, a partnership of the University of Tennessee and Battelle Memorial Institute. It is an honor to appear before the Committee in support of The Energy-Water Efficiency and Supply Technology Research, Development, and Transfer Program Act of 2005 (referred to here as the Water Technology Act).
The Water Technology Act would open an important area of research for our Laboratory and other parts of the federal and nonfederal research community in the U.S. As Senator Domenici has stated, reliable energy and clean water are essential elements in the quality of life of our citizens and those elsewhere in the world. When we lack one or the other, our standard of living suffers greatly. We have a responsibility to safeguard these resources for the American people. With your leadership and others, we are all getting better educated on the issues associated with unsafe water and unreliable energy – this is a hopeful sign. I will not repeat more water facts here, but I have attached a statement from the National Laboratory Energy-Water Nexus Team, a multi-laboratory team that has been working for more than two years to highlight these issues.

This attachment is a concise statement of the relation between energy production and water
resources and of how science and technology can contribute to new solutions to resource
limitations. The Energy-Water Nexus Team is a broad collaboration among DOE’s Laboratories that I hope will continue to function within the new Program you are proposing.

In my testimony today, I will concentrate on two subjects: 1) how energy-water issues are
becoming acute in the southeastern states, and 2) how new science can make a difference. The first point shows that water problems are not restricted to the western U.S. The second shows some of the benefits that will come from the Water Technology Act.
Energy-Water Issues in the Southeast Population increases throughout the U.S. will drive demand for both energy and water into the foreseeable future. As energy production accounts for the largest withdrawal of freshwater in the U.S., the growing demand for energy and the need to provide water for cities and industry will inevitably collide over limited freshwater. The competition for water between energy, municipalities, and industry is often compounded by the need to reallocate available water to environmental conservation. We are seeing these types of competitive problems in the eastern U.S. today.

In the introduction of the Water Technology Act, Senator Domenici explains how Nevada will have a population of four million people by 2030, twice as many as in 2000. The same trends are occurring in southeastern states such as Georgia, where the growth rate is about the same. Most of Georgia’s new water demand will be located in the Atlanta metropolitan area that is already struggling with water supply shortfalls. Population growth rates similar to those in Nevada and Georgia are occurring all along the east coast of the U.S., in states from Florida to Virginia. It is clear that there are water technology needs throughout the country and that the R&D investments in this proposed legislation are needed as soon as possible. To meet future water demand, many eastern coastal cities are turning to seawater desalination projects. For example, Tampa has been operating a seawater desalination plant since 2003 to augment its groundwater supplies. Tampa’s reverse osmosis plant is located next to a 2,000-MW, coal-fired power plant, where they share a water intake. Tampa’s experience is an important, leading example of how to provide new water sources for our cities, but desalination remains expensive, energy-intensive, and environmentally challenging. Biofouling of water intakes and membranes; unexpectedly high costs for construction, operation, and maintenance; and environmental impact of disposal of concentrated brines are continuing problems. These unresolved technical problems are delaying water solutions at other cities in the East and the West.

In central Virgina, the expansion of a nuclear power plant is being delayed because of limited water resources. The North Anna Nuclear Power Station near Mineral (north of Richmond) is located on Lake Anna, a 9,600-acre impoundment of the relatively small North Anna River. Lake Anna was created in 1971 to provide cooling water for the power station. Over the years, the lake has become home to marinas, dozens of subdivisions, a state park and thousands of recreational users. As is happening elsewhere in the U.S., changing water-use values are putting pressure on water for energy uses. Expansion of the North Anna Power Station would lead to water loss through increased evaporation of cooling water (either from the cooling reservoir or wet cooling towers), and that water loss would put plant safety, striped bass fisheries in the reservoir and downstream, and reservoir-based recreation at risk. This and many other examples make it clear that water and energy are major resource development issues throughout the country, both in the West and the East.

New Science and Technology Solutions

Can new science, technology development, and technology transfer help solve these problems quicker, cheaper, or better than existing technologies? I am confident that the answer is “yes” -- science and technology can make a real difference, and in a reasonable period of time. A combination of improvements to existing technologies and new technologies that we can expect from the dramatic advances occurring in, particularly, the materials sciences will help us use water more efficiently, produce water for human use from brackish or salt water, and reduce and often remove contaminants from water that we return to the environment. Let me illustrate the opportunities for progress through one example of a broad class of technologies that can have a transforming impact in the last two of these areas, the use of inorganic membranes.

Reverse osmosis membranes can be constructed out of inorganic materials: ceramics or metals. Inorganic membranes would be much more versatile than existing organic membranes. Depending on the materials used, inorganic membranes are resistant to corrosive liquids and gases, even at high temperatures (over 1000ºC). In seawater desalination applications, inorganic membranes would have distinct advantages. They could be selectively designed for use in the pre-treatment stage to remove biofouling organisms and other contaminants, or they could be designed for use in later treatment stages. The increased durability and other properties would becompatible with cheaper and more frequent and repetitive regeneration methods. Less costly operation and maintenance and less energy-intensive performance could be achieved. At ORNL, we have been exploring ways to build inorganic membranes for many years. The new Program that would be established by the Water Technology Act would enable us to develop new applications that could make a real difference, such as portable, low-power water treatment
packages to supply clean water to disaster victims.

DOE’s Laboratories have a wide range of capabilities that are well suited to tackle the most
difficult challenges at the intersection of energy and water. These include new information
systems, computational models, and monitoring technology to better understand future supplies and demands for both energy and water. New materials, separation methods, and
sensors/controls can be developed to create clean water and to increase water-use efficiencies in the energy sector. Increasing water-use efficiencies in energy, as well as in other industrial sectors, is an important priority, because it will delay the onset and the severity of unproductive competition between energy and water resources. As others have mentioned, the biotechnologies and nanotechnologies that are being developed within the national laboratories will have many applications to cleaning water that we hope will be more energy-efficient than current technologies.

The proposed Water Technology Program would have many important benefits beyond
providing for domestic water and energy needs. These additional benefits include homeland
security, increased resilience against climate change and variability, and contributions to
international stability in regions of the world that suffer from lack of clean water. New
technology to improve energy and water efficiency will contribute directly to improvements in the use of resources and protecting quality of life domestically and internationally.

The Best Path Forward on Energy-Water Technology Development

DOE’s National Laboratory system is an excellent place to center a new water technology
program, because of our multi-disciplinary nature and our ability to focus on challenging
missions, such as this. However, we know that we cannot do this alone. The full spectrum of basic to applied research, demonstration, and deployment will be needed. The new water technology program should be implemented in a way that is needs-based and merit-based, so that funding is allocated to the most pressing problems and work is done by the best researchers. We need to ensure that we draw on a broad range of skills from Labs, other agencies, academia, and industry. We also must ensure that the new technology that is developed is transferred expeditiously to commercial end-users, so that we impact energy and water resources as quickly and cost-effectively as possible. As the Water Technology Act implies, a base technology program in Labs and universities, combined with competitive grants, will produce effective directed research and the opportunity to incorporate the best new ideas from all sources. This is a strategy that has proved successful in delivering high-impact outcomes in a variety of arenas.

Thank you, Mr. Chairman, for your commitment to providing reliable energy and clean water to our nation and the world. The scientific community appreciates the Committee’s leadership in this area and firmly believes that the future of our nation depends on continued progress in science and technology, including the energy-water nexus.

The National Laboratory Energy-Water Nexus Team’s answer to Question 4 of the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources’ Water Conference on April 5,2005: What potential exists and what should be the federal government’s role in enhancing the
available water supply through the development of new technologies, conservation, metering, more efficient storage, water banking and other water transfers?

Enhancing Water Supplies While Addressing Energy Needs

Through Research and Technology Development As highlighted in recent National Academy of Science reports, scientific research and technical innovation will be critical elements in resolving the impending water crises we face nationally and internationally. Achieving this will require increased investment, coordination among many
federal agencies and collaboration among entities at federal, regional, state and local levels.
There are a number of different areas where research and development could enhance water supplies.

Water plays many essential roles in our lives and in our economies: maintaining public health
and sanitation, producing food, protecting sensitive ecosystems, enhancing recreation and
aesthetics, and playing a critical role in industry, energy production, and economic productivity.

All of these are potentially at risk should water supplies fail. The challenges of maintaining water sustainability also are fundamentally important both to national security and global stability. In observance of the 2002 World Day for Water, U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan noted that “By 2025, two-thirds of the world's population is likely to live in countries with moderate or severe water shortages. Fierce national competition over water resources has prompted fears that water issues contain the seeds of violent conflict.” In the U.S., competition also is growing for limited supplies of water of sufficient quality for use by municipalities, industries, agriculture, water and energy utilities, and others, including meeting ecosystem and recreational needs.

Insecurity over water as a powerful source for conflict is evidenced by 37 incidents globally
since 1948; but, over the same time period, water has been a greater force for international
cooperation, including 295 negotiated water agreements (Shiffries and Brewster, 2004).

Making sufficient alternatives available to negotiators depends in part on increased scientific
understanding and new technological options that can increase the number of alternatives for
enhancing water supplies to balance demands from competing water users.
A particularly important place for science and technology investment is at the energy-water
nexus. The needs for both energy and water are expected to grow substantially over the next 25 years, and while the separate challenges arising from these projections are recognized, little attention is given to the fact that the future of one of these resources may be compromised by a failure of the other: insufficient or too costly supplies of water can cripple energy production; insufficient or too costly energy can cripple water supplies. A stable U.S. energy portfolio requires adequate and dependable water. According to the USGS, electricity production from fossil and nuclear energy requires 190,000 million gallons of water per day, or 39% or all freshwater withdrawals nationally. In other words, U.S. households indirectly use as much or more water turning on the lights and running their appliances as they use directly for bathing and watering their gardens. Conversely, water pumping, treatment and conveyance use large amounts of energy, equivalent to energy used by the paper or refining industries, about 75 billion kWh/yr or 3% of national energy consumption. In the west, energy use for water is even higher: about 7% of California’s electricity is used for water pumping and as much as 25% of electricity use is water-related (Gleick et al., 2004).

Targeting Research and Development at the Energy-Water Nexus

Energy-water linkages result in synergies for research and technology efforts at the energy-water nexus. Increasing efficient use of energy effectively extends both water supply and energy supply; more efficient use of water effectively likewise enhances supplies of water and energy. There is a clear need for research and technology to develop a better understanding of the energy-water nexus and to find the innovative technological solutions needed to address the challenges at this critical junction. Such efforts should include energy-efficient technologies for treating and using impaired water sources, scientific and technologic advances to reduce water usage in power generation, reuse of waters used or produced in energy resource recovery, and improving energy efficiency in water pumping and conveyance, as well as a long list of other areas that will result in more efficient or decreased use of water and energy.
Water acquisition, management, movement, distribution, purification and post-use treatment are large users of energy (Anderson, 1999). Water sector energy demand also likely will
substantially outpace growth in other high-energy use sectors. Increasing water demand, shifts to water reuse and recycling, more use of impaired water sources, tapping of deeper groundwater sources, and increased water storage and transport will significantly increase future energy demand. Energy demand for treatment and conveyance of freshwater supplies is increasing due \to deteriorating infrastructure (American Water Resources Association, 2005), increased awareness of harmful natural constituents such as arsenic (Bitner, 2004), introduction of new contaminants into the environment (e.g., endocrine disruptors, disinfection byproducts), and concerns over soil salinization and depletion of groundwater (Lawford et al., 2003; McGuire et al., 2003). Addressing these factors will require long-term commitments of significant resources to research, develop, demonstrate and deploy water treatment technologies that can improve efficiencies for removing traditional compounds as well as treat an ever-growing number of new contaminants. Such research should include development of new energy-efficient and selective materials for membranes, ion exchange resins and filters, innovative processes for desalination, and improved processes for handling concentrate waste streams.

With inclusion of freshwater and saline water withdrawals for thermoelectric and hydropower, the energy sector is the largest water use sector. While these withdrawals are not completely consumptive, enough water still must be available to ensure sustainable energy production. With the exception of some renewable energy sources, and regardless of fuel sources, our electricity production is dependent on water supplies (Electric Power Research Institute, 2002; Brocksen et al., 1996). Additionally, much of our energy fuel production is dependent on adequate water supplies to obtain and process fuels (Wolff et al., 2004). Energy resource recovery and processing also create large volumes of wastewater that require treatment for reuse or disposal (Gleick et al., 2004). Future sources of energy such as coal liquefaction or gasification, biomass, and hydrogen will place new demands on water resources.

Many factors are driving the current condition of increasingly strained water resources toward a severe water crisis, translating to negative results for the energy sector. Nationally, population is growing most rapidly where water is least available. Internationally, in addition to the water needed for growing populations, tremendous amounts of water will be needed to modernize urban centers and industrialize the developing world. Freshwater supplies are dwindling due to extended droughts in parts of the U.S. and in other countries throughout the world (Hirsch, 2004). Water will be foremost among resources affected by long-term trends in regional and global temperatures or other manifestations of climate change.

All of these factors will contribute to increasing difficulties for the energy sector to obtain the
water it needs for existing plants and for future expansion. Newspapers from throughout the
country increasingly are reporting that drought, increasing competition among user groups for existing water supplies, and fears of negative impacts on ecosystems are causing denial of permits for new thermoelectric power generation or restrictions on existing electricity generation. For example, the Salt Lake Tribune reported that the drought now impacting the western U.S. has reduced hydropower production at Glen Canyon Dam by 25 percent, reducing output to just 124 megawatts out of 165 megawatts of power capacity. Drought has also reduced hydropower output from numerous smaller projects throughout the state, lowering revenues for hydropower producers and making electricity more expensive for many of Utah’s households. In Lassen County in northern California, concerns over water are causing residents and conservationists to oppose construction of a 1400-megawatt coal-fired power plant planned across the state line in Nevada. The plant would produce cheap electricity at 2 cents per kilowatt-hour compared to 5 cents per kilowatt-hour for gas-fired plants, however, experts think that the 16,000-acre feet of water per year needed for the plant greatly exceeds sustainable withdrawals from the area’s water resources. In both cases, water shortages result in increasing costs and decreasing supplies of electricity. In central Virgina, near Mineral, a siting permit to expand the North Anna Nuclear Power Station is being contested due to concerns over water. Lake Anna, a 9,600-acre river impoundment, was created in 1971 to provide cooling water for the North Lake Anna Nuclear Power Station. Over the years, the lake has become home to marinas, dozens of subdivisions, a state park and thousands of recreational users. The siting permit has encountered significant resistance from other water users, residents and environmental groups over the impact of reducing lake levels, especially during droughts, and the resulting risk to plant safety, as well s the impacts on aquatic species and recreation from impingement, entrainment and thermal discharges from expanding the facility.

There are also energy implications resulting from choices in water resource utilization. For
example, in California, where power shortages recently necessitated rolling blackouts and other extreme power conservation measures, water constraints are pushing industries and power plants to shift to wastewater reuse and recycling. Because energy as well as water may be limiting factors, the future availability and cost of the additional energy that will be required for
wastewater treatment and conveyance should be considered in conjunction with the cost and availability of various water source alternatives, or switching to other options such as dry cooling or other low water-intensity power generation such as solar and wind power. The cascading blackout that temporarily devastated many parts of the economies of regions in the Northeast and Midwest several years ago also resulted in suspension of Cleveland’s water supply because electricity was not available for pumping stations. Future city planning is likely to consider a mix of energy resource alternatives or back-up generators to increase the reliability and security of both energy and water systems. Decision analysis and systems tools that allow coupling the energy and water sectors are critical for such integrated planning.

Problems at the energy-water nexus are national in scope but there are profound regional
differences in water issues and energy sources that dictate solutions be fit to regional and local needs. Water scarcity is most obvious in the arid West where surface water withdrawals are maximized and groundwater pumping rates exceed natural recharge rates, but even in the more humid Eastern states, limited storage, groundwater level declines, salt water intrusion and depletion of stream flow needed for aquatic ecosystems are common problems (NSTC, 2004). The benefits from new investments should be maximized by focusing on technologies that can be deployed nationwide by virtue of their adaptability to a variety of regional water resource scenarios.

Investment should also be made in a process to ensure that the technologies created through
energy-water research and development are deployed successfully to end-users. Components of such a process should include technology innovation, research and development, pilot testing and assessment, technology transfer and commercialization, and concurrent studies of the economic and policy constraints that may impede regulatory and public acceptance. To be successful, a new technology must be economically viable, environmentally acceptable, should be easily integrated or substituted into existing infrastructure or processes, and comply with all applicable laws and regulations.


As highlighted in recent National Academy of Science reports, solving the national challenge of sustainable water and energy supply will require a coordinated and concerted investment in science and new technology development. There is an urgent need to increase research and development efforts to create science-based solutions to water-related constraints on future energy supplies and energy-related constraints on future water supplies. Over the last decades, there have been investments in some water related areas, such as groundwater cleanup and environmental restoration, fossil energy produced water management, thermoelectric power efficiency, and in-home water and energy efficiency. All of these efforts individually fall within the energy-water overlap, but more integration and coordination is needed to provide a foundation for broader research and technology development specifically targeted to cover the scope of the nexus between national energy and water supply needs. Science and engineering expertise to be tapped include high-performance, high-resolution computer simulation capabilities, advanced sensors and controls, separations science including advanced materials development, impaired water treatment and water reuse technologies, improved water and energy efficiency technologies and systems, technology testing and demonstration facilities, tools for integrated analysis of complex interdependent systems, and tools for decision-support analysis and visualization. Finally, a regional approach to water resources is needed, so that new technology development is matched to local and regional needs and priorities. Regionally based
efforts should foster cooperation among national laboratories, universities, other federal
agencies, private industry, state and local agencies to target the most pressing national and
regionally cross-cutting priorities. Creation of strong regional public/private partnerships that
engage federal, state and local decision makers must be a key part of any solution.