Americans need access to safe, affordable, and reliable water. Today, challenges to the supply, such as drought, ground water depletion, increasing population, and aging infrastructure pose a risk to our nation’s water security.

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) supports the Trump Administration in its commitment to overcoming these challenges. On October 13, 2020, President Trump signed an Executive Order on Modernizing America’s Water Resource Management and Water Infrastructure. The executive order established an Interagency Water Subcabinet that brings together senior federal agency officials to streamline and facilitate efficient, effective management and modernization of our water supplies and systems. The subcabinet includes leadership from DOE, the U.S. Department of the Interior, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Army Corps of Civic Works, and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Energy plays an important role in how we approach freshwater challenges because our energy and water systems are interdependent. DOE is leading the White House-initiated Water Security Grand Challenge because it provides a great opportunity to improve efficiency, resiliency, and environmental performance at the energy-water nexus.

The Water Security Grand Challenge uses a coordinated suite of prizes, competitions, and early-stage research and development to advance innovation and transformational technologies to meet the need for safe and affordable water. DOE is working with the National Laboratories, federal and non-federal partners, and members of the Interagency Water Subcabinet to achieve five primary goals for the United States by 2030:

  1. Launch desalination technologies that deliver cost-competitive clean water.
  2. Transform the energy sector’s produced water from a waste to a resource.
  3. Achieve near-zero water impact for new thermoelectric power plants, and significantly lower freshwater use intensity within the existing fleet.
  4. Double resource recovery from municipal wastewater.
  5. Develop small, modular energy-water systems for urban, rural, tribal, national security, and disaster response scenarios.

DOE funded the $100 million Energy-Water Desalination Hub—led by the National Alliance for Water Innovation (NAWI)—that will focus on research and development of desalination technologies. NAWI will work to treat "non-traditional" water sources, like brackish water, for use instead of freshwater in industrial operations. Currently, the Challenge has three active prize competitions: the Waves-to-Water Prize, the Wastewater Resource Recovery Prize, and the Solar Desalination Prize.

DOE is pleased to expand its collaboration with other agencies and support the administration in an effort to stimulate American innovation and technology solutions that address critical water issues and water security for the nation.

To learn more about DOE’s efforts to ensure water security, visit the Water Security Grand Challenge website.

Daniel R Simmons
Daniel R Simmons, former Assistant Secretary for the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy
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