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Climate Concerns: Managing Water and Energy Resources along the US-Mexico Border

Dec 2 2015

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The hydropower generation station at Shasta Dam

The hydropower generation station at Shasta Dam (Cyril Caton via Flickr)
 

Scholars from the United States and Mexico gathered at Stanford this fall to discuss the intersections of climate change, water management and energy policy at the border of those two countries.

Collaborative initiatives addressing the water-energy nexus are needed to more ​effectively manage those critical resources as the global climate changes, said Newsha Ajami, who organized the Oct. 1-2 workshop in coordination with the Bill Lane Center for the American West, titled “Water-Energy Nexus in the Context of Climate Change.”

Water and energy are closely linked. Water is an essential part of energy development and production. Energy is needed in every step of the water use process from extraction to purification and distribution, and in later stages for wastewater collection and clean up. The water-energy connection has become even more important under conditions of scarcity and higher demand, making it abundantly clear that solutions to one cannot be achieved without direct impact on the other.

The US-Mexico Dimension

These relationships are particularly apparent on the US-Mexico border, where communities face water scarcity challenges expected to worsen as the planet warms.   Ajami noted that despite mutual recognition that there is a strong connection among water, energy and climate change, there is as yet no bilateral agreement on this matter and very limited work to date to identify the potential impacts of climate change on future cross-border water and energy portfolios.

Workshop participants discussed cross-border ​water and energy policies as well as related challenges and opportunities in the future development of diverse water and energy portfolios. Drought, water quality, fracking, renewable energy, policy and water supplies were among the issues discussed. The interdisciplinary group explored climate challenges facing water management and energy policy while analyzing the best framework to address their mutual impacts.

Findings from the Event

One key takeaway: Given that climate change ​is expected to impact water ​and energy availability and reliability in the region, ​the close interconnectivity of those resources should be incorporated into ​policy, management and decision making processes.

This workshop served as the inaugural meeting of scholars forming a research collaborative on U.S.–Mexico water and energy nexus issues. They’ve already begun to identify specific opportunities for joint research anchored by Stanford University and Tecnológico de Monterrey of Mexico, in partnership with other expert individuals and institutions. The researcher partners will next meet in Baja in 2016.

Learn more about US-Mexico Energy-Water Nexus research