Skip to main content
U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government

Publication Date
1 August 2019

Planning for sustained water-electricity resilience over the U.S.: Persistence of current water-electricity operations and long-term transformative plans



The electricity system relies upon the availability and predictability of water to support hydropower operations and cooling of thermoelectric plants, implying that water plays a fundamental role in power operations and that water-related stresses may have a critical effect on the electricity system. Designing for electricity system resilience to changing societal demands and environmental conditions is a complex and urgent endeavor, one that requires robust diagnosis and an articulation of interdependencies among key system components. Here we consider the argument that water may help to navigate that complexity, revealing thresholds for system change and the transformations that may be required for enduring resilience of the electricity sector. To assess this thesis, we apply a framework for understanding resilient systems following Folke et al. (2010), that is extended in this special issue (Boltz et al., 2019), by which resilience comprises three capabilities: system persistence, adaptability, and transformability. We apply this resilience diagnosis approach to the bulk electricity system of the contiguous United States, with particular attention to water-driven stressors. We provide a qualitative narrative that discusses the spectrum of resilience capabilities (persistence, adaptability, and transformability) of the water-electricity system in the United States over three scales of inter-dependencies: individual power plant, urban and grid scales.
“Planning For Sustained Water-Electricity Resilience Over The U.s.: Persistence Of Current Water-Electricity Operations And Long-Term Transformative Plans”. 2019. Water Security 7: 100035. doi:10.1016/j.wasec.2019.100035.
Funding Program Area(s)