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The Water-Energy Consortium (WEC) at Clemson University (CU), officially launched on July 1 2014, is a multidisciplinary group of about 40 CU faculty members, designated as WEC Fellows, who have assembled their knowledge and expertise to address an important global challenge: the Water-Energy Nexus. The nexus between water and energy encompasses energy aspects of water systems (i.e., the energy footprint of water production), and water aspects of energy systems (i.e., the water footprint of energy production).

Energy is required to drive water infrastructure systems, including the extraction/transmission, treatment, and distribution of drinking water as well as the collection, treatment, and disposal or reuse of wastewater. Water is required in energy resource development and production systems, including cooling water, hydropower, energy resource extraction, and fuel production (including biofuels). Thus, water and energy are interlinked resources which should be managed in a holistic way to reduce both specific energy consumption (kWh/m3) in water systems and specific water consumption (m3/kWh) in energy systems. Besides the direct connection between water and energy, the WEC takes a broader perspective on sustainability of water and energy resources, involving reduction of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and the environmental impact of both water and energy systems. While low unit costs ($/m3 or $/kWh) are important economic drivers, they are only part of the decision-landscape of sustainable water and energy systems.

Technology resilience within the context of climate change, and technology adaptation within the context of different climatic (temperate, arid, and tropical) regions are additional considerations. Moreover, water and energy use efficiency is affected by losses such as leakage from water distribution systems, arguing for integrated water and energy demand management. Beyond the science and technology focus of the WEC, water and energy resource management/policy/economics and social science are important underpinning elements to link all of the various stakeholders in the water-energy nexus.

Vision and Mission

The vision of the WEC is to promote global recognition of Clemson University as being at the forefront of research addressing the water-energy nexus. The mission of the WEC is to contribute research leading to technology innovations in water systems with a minimization of energy and carbon footprints as well as energy systems with a minimization of water and carbon footprints.

Research Themes

Within the framework of the WEC, five strategic research themes have been identified:

  1. Novel, energy-efficient water/wastewater purification processes and systems
  2. Improved water efficiency of energy resource development, and power production processes and systems
  3. Innovations in material science for high-performance water and energy processes and systems
  4. Water and energy informatics, sensors, monitoring, and computational modeling support
  5. Water and energy resources, management, policy, and economics 

Strategic Goal

The WEC has been launched to serve as a vehicle for attracting government and industry supported research. Within this context, we have assembled a talented pool of interdisciplinary faculty able to respond to a range of funding opportunities, alone or with other academic partners.  A number of federal (NSF. DOE, and EPA) programs funding research centers, single and multi university, are being targeted as well as industry sponsored research, including both upstream (multi-industry) and downstream projects. 

Related CU Centers and Institutes

The WEC has been established within a framework of existing research centers and institutes at Clemson University, providing an opportunity for linkages and synergies:

Looking Forward

An important ambition of the WEC is to establish a national (and international) network of academic and research institutes to address the multitudes of problems associated with the water-energy nexus. A key challenge is to erase the silos and establish linkages between scientists and engineers working in the water and energy domains as well as expanding the network to engage a broader range of stakeholders including industry and government. In advancing new technology solutions, the formidable institutional and policy barriers to linking the water and energy sectors must be overcome, taking into account the divergence of water and power (energy) grids. Ultimately, research should be driven by societal needs and impacts, and disruptive technology solutions will be necessary, applied to both centralized and de-centralized systems.