Intertwined Impacts of Water, Energy Development, and Carbon Emissions in China
China is rapidly expanding its alternative and non-conventional energy production capabilities. Although renewable electricity remains the focus, considerable investment has supported construction of coal liquefaction and coal gasification facilities in the desert steppes of north-central China, new coal mines in arid Inner Mongolia, and tight oil and gas extraction in the Ordos to supplement limited domestic supplies of oil and gas. At the same time, China is also facing severe drought and water scarcity in these same regions and in response has expanded various water supply technologies such as desalination and wastewater treatment. Recent government goals and measures for reducing energy and water consumption and increasing efficiency introduced in national policies, however, are poorly or not coordinated, resulting in contradictory objectives for which physical interlinkages are not well understood. This research intends to provide insights for future energy-water nexus management decisions in China, through systematic, comprehensive modeling of the water-energy nexus in China based on comprehensive, bottom-up technology characterizations. Existing studies fail to adequately characterize the details on specific technologies, nor do they comprehensively cover all energy sectors, including energy conversion for non-energy products. We developed integrated assessment (IA) capabilities to allow stakeholders to observe the tradeoffs between various technology options and policy decisions and to test hypotheses/premises in a scenario-driven environment. The results of our analysis underscore the growing interconnection between water and energy in China, the mixed trade-offs from developing low-carbon technologies such as renewable energy and inland nuclear, and the importance of water-energy nexus issues at the regional and local scales. This study lays the groundwork for an integrated resource policy planning process in China and provides an assessment methodology and research directions for future studies of the water-energy nexus. Finally, this study contributes to the water-energy nexus literature by providing systematic data and policy implications for China, where data are typically less accessible, as well as providing references for other regions in the world that are facing similar water and energy use and planning challenges.