Energy Producers Fight for Clean Water
Thirsty Energy | World Economic Forum | February 2009
Water and energy are the most important resources
for humanity. Both have become more mutually dependent. Beginning in the middle
ages with the water wheel, then used in factories for cooling purposes, to its
application as a fuel source, water has always played a critical role in
generating energy. In return it was necessary to provide access to clean water
- requiring water to be pumped from deeper levels of the water table. The
challenges of generating water and energy are steadily increasing. On the one
hand, augmenting this challenge is the continually escalating global energy
demand. On the other, the growing world population increases the difficulty of
energy producers to access necessary water sources.
Accounting for 70 percent, agriculture use constitutes the largest water demand. In second place is the use of water for industrial reasons. Only 8 percent of available clean water is used for energy production. This amount appears to be small, but water is a critical link in the chain of energy production. The sharp contest over water access leads energy producers into greater competition with other world actors. Therefore, there is a growing necessity to use water sources more efficiently. The most immediate solutions to this problem can be found at the local level. Water industries should not only sharpen their awareness of water problems, but they should also provide for the complex relationship between water and energy. Access to water has long been a challenge to energy producers. The compulsion to reduce CO2 emissions increases this pressure. Renewable energies are no panacea due to differences among them: the production of bio-fuels is very water-intensive, while other renewables require very little water, such as wind and solar energy.
Energy producers must find answers to a variety of questions to secure their future: What does future water use in energy generation look like? What role does water play in the development of energy technologies? How do governments and agriculture cooperate to develop a sustainable water strategy for the future? What technologies can provide more efficient use of water in energy production? How can the use and re-use of water be developed?
This summary was prepared by the Atlantic Community editorial team from "Thirsty Energy: Water and Energy in the 21st Century," published here by the World Economic Forum, February 2009