new report warns of growing competition for the world's limited freshwater
supplies. The World Economic Forum says water is needed to meet increased
energy demands, while climate change is leaving large areas of the world
chronically short of the precious resource.
of the Earth's surface is covered with water, but only three percent of that is
available for human use. And while that three percent has remained relatively
constant over the years, global consumption is reported to have grown at over
twice the rate of world population growth.
new report – Thirsty Energy: Water and Energy in the 21st Century –
says water is increasingly becoming of "strategic significance." That's because
water is "critical" to energy production, from Middle Age water wheels to
modern power plants. The
report says the link between water and energy "is stronger than ever and is
becoming more strained as human usage of both energy and water increases."
Frei, World Economic Forum's Senior Director of Energy, says, "Usually it's
pointed out there's a strong link between energy security (and) climate change,
etc. What one tends to forget is that water is an additional element that one
should keep in the picture."
report says that "access to water is a growing risk for the electric power
industry as it plans to invest in new plants." In areas where freshwater is in
short supply, a "battle over water rights" may ensue. And with energy companies
under pressure to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, there may be a greater
demand for water to grow bio-fuel crops. The report says, "The quality and
quantity of water available to support energy production, and all other human
activity, will become an increasingly crucial issue in many parts of the
world." And Christoph says that greater demands are being made on energy
single unit that you add to the system is usually coming from a source that is
increasing water thirst and I can give examples. It's not only true for
bio-fuels, it's obviously true for many of the non-conventional fossil fuels.
It's true if you're talking about technology such as coal liquification or
gasification. It's true about many of the additional energy units that you
bring to the system," he says.
World Economic report says that there is a need to use water much more
efficiently. But while worries over water are global in nature, the report
concludes that solutions may have to be local, since "transporting water over
long distances is not economically feasible." Some countries with a history of
water shortages, such as those in the Middle East, have tailored their energy
industry to continually reuse water supplies.
production may also feel the squeeze from agriculture, which is the world's
largest water consumer. And with a fast growing world population, agriculture's
share of water use is expected to increase.
says that while the energy industry is being made more "climate friendly," it
should not be made more "water thirsty."