This course focuses on water resources and the water-energy nexus specific to Texas. Students will become familiar with the necessity of water resources for energy production and electricity generation, as well as the energy required for water collection, treatment, etc. This course also examines considerations and trajectories of Texas water resource supply and demand going into the future, in correlation with the energy transition.
To begin, students will gain insight on the different climate types that encompass Texas, and how climate types are classified using the Köppen Climate Classification System. The initial lesson delves into the potential climate changes Texas may face in the near future such as sea-level rise, intensified storms, etc.
Following insight on the climate, students will learn about the global water cycle and water resources specific to Texas, including surface water sources and underground aquifers in the state. Information regarding the basics of the water footprint, and water resource demand in Texas will allow students to gain an understanding of the importance of sustainable water resource use to mitigate risk of water scarcity. Students will also have the opportunity to calculate their individual water footprint to gain a better understanding of water demand for human use.
Further lessons in the course entail specific topics related to the water-energy nexus, with insight on water demand for resource extraction, energy production, and electricity generation. Students will also learn about the various environmental considerations of the water-energy nexus, taking a look at a UT Austin case study, “Planet Texas 2050.” Planet Texas 2050 addresses the grand challenges of water extremes (droughts and floods), reliable electricity generation, and population growth in Texas, with the goal of creating lasting solutions to use of our finite resources.
As a successor of the Pursuit of a Safe Well course, How Much Water Does It Take also includes a lesson on water use specific to the petroleum industry. Students will learn about the fundamentals of hydraulic fracturing, a process in which water is pumped into underlying formations to stimulate the reservoir creating flow paths for hydrocarbons. The lesson also includes topics regarding produced water, a term used to define the water that is co-produced with oil and gas at the surface as a result of hydrocarbon extraction. Produced water is mostly managed using subsurface disposal, which has been linked to induced seismicity. Produced water can also be minimally treated for reuse to support hydraulic fracturing, reducing impacts on freshwater sources for hydraulic fracturing. Much more intensive treatment of produced water would be required for use in other sectors, such as irrigation. Management of produced water presents a big challenge here in Texas because the Permian Basin generates much more produced water than any other play within the United States. Students will also learn about the Eagle Ford Shale and the Shale Revolution, in a case study that looks at how much water this field produces and consumes for crude oil and natural gas production, here in Southeast Texas. To begin, click on the lesson, “The Texas Climate.”