Research

Research in the Stillwell Research Group addresses various aspects of the energy-water nexus.


Urban water and energy sustainability

Characterizing the sustainability and embedded energy of the urban water cycle

The urban water Basic RGBcycle does not just include direct fluxes of water; it also requires inputs of indirect or embedded water in resources such as food and energy. Accounting for these indirect and direct fluxes of water and its embedded energy provides opportunities for water and energy benchmarking at the urban scale. Our work provides comparative sustainability analyses of urban environments across the United States.

Publications:
– C.M. Chini, M. Konar, and A.S. Stillwell. (2017). “Direct and indirect urban water footprints of the United States.” Water Resources Research, 53(1), 316-327.
– C.M. Chini and A.S. Stillwell. (2017). “Where Are All the Data? The Case for a Comprehensive Water and Wastewater Utility Database.” Journal of Water Resources Planning and Management, 143(3), 01816005.

Sponsor: National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship

Urban water resource vulnerability of the food-energy-water nexus

The spatial and temporal variability of available water resources strongly influences water stress across the country. Water is not only used for drinking and irrigation, but is also embedded in the supply chains of food, fuel, and electricity.  By quantifying the spatial vulnerability of cities’ water resources, we seek to find critical locations of water flows and assist decision makers in resource allocation and policy implementation.

Quantifying the energy-water nexus in the residential sector

An essential component of the urban environment is the residential household. Appliances and fixtures within the home consume water and energy both directly and indirectly. Our work evaluates the
benefits of upgrading to ENERGY STAR or WaterSense appliances in terms of both direct and indirect energy and water savings. This study provides opportunities for conservation programs both at the home and city or utility level.ResidentialEWNpicforwebsite

Publications:
– C.M. Chini, K.L. Schreiber, Z.A. Barker, and A.S. Stillwell. (2016). “Quantifying Energy and Water Savings in the U.S. Residential Sector.” Environmental Science & Technology, 50(17), 9003-9012.

Sponsor: Siebel Energy Institute

Modeling and prediction of watershed-scale dynamics of water reuse for power plant cooling

Water reuse can be a RW4PPsustainable solution for areas with significant non-potable water demand. Cooling power plants with reclaimed water is one such sustainable solution, with different benefits and tradeoffs for local and regional water users. In our work regarding water reuse for power plant cooling, we model local and regional watershed-scale dynamics due to consumption of reclaimed water.

Publications:
– Z.A. Barker and A.S. Stillwell. (2016). “Implications of Transitioning from De Facto to Engineered Water Reuse for Power Plant Cooling.” Environmental Science & Technology, 50(10), 5379-5388. Mentioned in Science.

Sponsor: Illinois Water Resources Center


Electricity and water resources

Understanding power grid reliability in response to drought and heat wave conditions

Under drought and
heat wave conditions, the impacts of power generation on water resources are exacerbated. While there is often adequate generation capacity to completely eliminate these impacts by shutting down affected generators, the resulting grid configuration might be unreliable. In this work, we examine the tradeoffs between water externalities and electricity reliability under water-stressed conditions and develop approaches for optimal decision-making.

Sponsor: Institute for Sustainability, Energy, and Environment

Integrating thermoelectric power generation operations with aquatic ecosystem sustainability

With rising population comes an increasing demand for electricity generation. The rise in electricity generation will likely require tradeoffs in ecosystem sustainability, particularly as a result of thermal pollution from thermoelectric power plant cooling operations. By incorporating biology into the energy-water nexus, power plant operators and policy makers can better manage the generation of electricity while also promoting ecosystem sustainability. Our work aims to quantify the direct risk posed to aquatic species from thermal pollution, while also providing a method and framework for further assessment of the tradeoffs between power generation and aquatic ecosystems.Thumbnail image_LHL

Sponsor: National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship, Roy J. Carver Fellowship in Engineering

Estimating impacts of power plants on water resources in Illinois

Thermoelectric power generation requires significant volumes of water for cooling. Power generation in Illinois depends on mostly coal and nuclear fuels, making electricity in Illinois particularly thirsty. In our study of the energy-water nexus in Illinois, we quantify the water withdrawal and consumption for power generation and simulate the effects of fuel and cooling technology shifts.EWNinIL

Publications:
– T.A. DeNooyer, J.M. Peschel, Z. Zhang, and A.S. Stillwell. (2016). “Integrating water resources and power generation: The energy-water nexus in Illinois.” Applied Energy, 162(1), 363-371.

Sponsor: National Great Rivers Research and Education Center


Green stormwater infrastructure

Quantifying the hydrologic performance of green infrastructure to mitigate urban flooding

Green stormwater iresearch logonfrastructure has been lauded as a multi-benefit
approach to addressing urban flooding issues. However, the performance of green infrastructure is highly variable, depending on factors as diverse as antecedent soil moisture, soil type, and placement within the existing network. Our research aims to use a reliability analysis framework to quantify and evaluate green infrastructure within the context of the energy-water nexus and the broader urban environment.

Publications:
– R. William, A. Goodwell, M. Richardson, P.V.V. Le, P. Kumar, and A.S. Stillwell. (2016). “An environmental cost-benefit analysis of alternative green roofing strategies.” Ecological Engineering, 95(1), 1-9.

Sponsor: Ravindar K. and Kavita Kinra Fellowship in Civil and Environmental Engineering, Illinois Water Resources Center

Understanding the broader policy context and benefits of green stormwater infrastructure

Green stormwater infrastructure has many benefits beyond runoff reduction and water quality improvement. Our work quantifies these direct and indirect benefits of green stormwater infrastructure installations in urban areas, including the policy context of these approaches.

Publications:
– C.M. Chini, J.F. Canning, K.L. Schreiber, J.M. Peschel, and A.S. Stillwell. (2017). “The Green Experiment: Cities, Green Stormwater Infrastructure, and Sustainability.” Sustainability, 9(1), 105.


Energy and water policy analysis

Incorporating sustainability into energy and water policy

Since energy and water resources are interconnected, policy decisions regarding one resource affect the other. Synergies and tradeoffs are often apparent in energy and water policy and decision-making. Our work quantifies and highlights these connections via science-based policy analysis.

Publications:
– A.S. Stillwell. (2015). “Sustainability of Public Policy: Example from the Energy-Water Nexus.” Journal of Water Resources Planning and Management, Special Issue on Sustainability, 141(12), A4015001.

water · energy · policy