The water-energy nexus is increasingly important as climate change alters social, policy, and economic tradeoffs and choices. This is particularly true in the arid western United States. This article provides an original empirical assessment of 33 integrated resource plans (IRPs) of electric utilities in that region. The analysis shows that only a minority of utilities address the risk of drought in their IRPs. Even fewer use their IRPs to develop concrete plans to address drought risk. Consequently, we suggest four different strategies for utilities to better integrate water and electricity planning. Importantly, our analysis reveals that legal and policy changes may best encourage such improved planning integration. In developing these conclusions, the article also (1) overviews different cooling technologies used for electricity generation facilities, (2) details cooling technology and water use for utilities in the West, and (3) provides and analyzes original data on whether utility IRPs assess different water- and non-water related risks.
Davies, Lincoln L., Luman, Victoria, Incomplete Integration: Water, Drought, and Electricity Planning in the West Journal of Environmental Law & Litigation, Vol. 31, pp. 167-214, 2016.