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The water-energy nexus has been an active area of research in recent decades and has been explored in many different directions pertaining to its core. It is imperative to manage water and energy in a holistic approach as there are critical interconnections between the two systems. Climate change is an intrinsic environmental variable that has vital implications for the study of water-energy nexus, and hence, the term water-energy-climate nexus is used throughout the dissertation in reference to the interdependencies and tradeoffs between these systems. This dissertation is composed of three research studies under the domain of the water-energy-climate nexus, and they are interconnected through the intrinsic linkages among the three systems.

The first study deals with the vulnerability of U.S. thermoelectric power plants to climate change. Findings suggest that the impact of climate change is lower than in previous estimates due to the inclusion of a spatially-disaggregated representation of environmental regulations and provisional variances that temporarily relieve power plants from permit requirements. This study highlights the significance of accounting for legal constructs and underscores the effects of provisional variances along with environmental requirements.

The second study demonstrates the adaptation measures taken by the U.S. energy system in the face of constraints on water availability. Results show that water availability constraints may cause substantial capital stock turnover and result in non-negligible economic costs for the western U.S. This work emphasizes the need to integrate water availability constraints into electricity capacity planning and highlights the state-level challenges to facilitate regional strategic resource planning.

The last study assesses the potential of surface reservoir expansion for major river basins around the world as an adaption measure to secure a reliable water supply. Results suggest that conservation zones and future human migration will have a substantial, heterogeneous impact on the maximum amount of reservoir storage that can be expanded worldwide. Findings from this study highlight the importance of incorporating human development, land-use activities, and climate change drivers when quantifying available surface water yields and reservoir expansion potential.

This dissertation takes an integrated holistic approach to examine water and energy system interrelationships, and assesses the role of climate change in reshaping the interconnectivity. The three studies are tied in to each other by identifying some of the challenges the society is facing in the water-energy-climate nexus (first study) and providing a few possible solutions in both energy supply (second study) and water supply (third study) sector. Novelty of this dissertation includes but not limited to 1) explicit representation of state-level environmental regulations pertaining to power plant operations in the U.S. 2) integrated approach that captures the interactions of energy system with other sectors of the economy; and 3) global assessment of reservoir capacity expansion potential with consideration of multiple constraints. General conclusions, along with further details, provide insights for sustainable resource planning and future research directions.