Water and Power Systems Integration

NREL researchers evaluate synergies between energy and water infrastructure to identify opportunities where greater integration can lead to mutual benefits and improved reliability and resiliency.

Photo of a hydropower dam with a rainbow in the background.


NREL offers the following capabilities to support water and power systems integration in addressing the energy-water-land nexus.

NREL created a modeling and analysis framework and a visualization tool to help power grid stakeholders better understand how climate and water risks, such as droughts and heavy rainfall, might impact their assets, regions, and systems.
NREL evaluates the flexibility of water infrastructure and water treatment technologies to provide essential services to the electric grid. This flexibility in load and generation can help reduce energy costs for water facilities while improving grid reliability.
NREL designs and evaluates co-optimized energy-water systems for buildings, campuses, cities, military bases, regions, agricultural systems, and remote communities. We have developed multiple research tools to evaluate trade-offs at these scales.
NREL performs technology-neutral analysis to inform technology development, validate performance, and support deployment of emerging water treatment technologies and their integration with low-carbon energy systems. Our efforts have explored water treatment powered by solar energy, wind energy, wave energy, geothermal energy, and waste heat from power and industrial applications.

Emerging Areas

  • Cybersecurity
  • Advanced sensor technology and communications
  • Automated controls


Water and Climate Impacts on ERCOT Long-Term Systems Assessment, NREL Technical Report (2022)

Preparing the Power Sector to Navigate Climate and Water Risks, NREL Fact Sheet (2022)

Land Use for Bioenergy: Synergies and Trade-Offs Between Sustainable Development Goals, Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews (2022)

Optimization Framework to Assess the Demand Response Capacity of a Water Distribution System, Journal of Water Resources Planning and Management (2020)

Opportunities and Barriers for Renewable and Distributed Energy Resource Development at Drinking Water and Wastewater Utilities, Report No. 4625, The Water Research Foundation report (2019)

Climate-Water Impacts on Interconnection-Scale Electricity System Planning, NREL Poster (2019)

Energy-Water Microgrid Opportunity Analysis at the University of Arizona’s Biosphere 2 Facility, NREL Technical Report (2018)

Analysis of a Wave-Powered, Reverse-Osmosis System and Its Economic Availability in the United States Preprint, American Society of Mechanical Engineers’ International Conference on Ocean, Offshore and Arctic Engineering (2017)


Jennifer Daw

Strategy, Policy, and Implementation Group Manager