Energy/Water Nexus

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Energy production depends on water. It is used in power generation, primarily for cooling thermal power plants; in the extraction, transport and processing of fuels; and, increasingly, in irrigation to grow biomass feedstock crops. Energy is also vital to providing freshwater, needed to power systems that collect, transport, distribute and treat it. Each resource faces rising demands and constraints in many regions as a consequence of economic and population growth and climate change, which will amplify their vulnerability to one another.

For the energy sector, constraints on water can challenge the reliability of existing operations as well as the physical, economic and environmental viability of future projects. Water constraints can occur naturally, as in the case of droughts and heat waves, or be human-induced, as a result of growing competition among users or regulations that limit access to water. In the summer of 2012, for example, a delayed monsoon in India reduced hydropower output at the same time electricity demand was running high, contributing to two days of blackouts that affected an estimated 660 million people. Equally important to water-related risks confronted by the energy sector, the use of water for energy production can impact freshwater resources, affecting both their availability (the amount downstream) and quality (their physical and chemical properties).

The findings of the IEA show that the scale of water use for energy production is tremendous. Some 580 billion cubic metres of freshwater are withdrawn for energy production every year . At about 15% of the world’s total water withdrawal, the figure is second only to agriculture. To put it another way, the energy sector withdraws water at approximately the same rate that water flows down the Ganges (in India) or Mississippi (in the United States) Rivers – some of the very largest in the world.

The vast majority of water used in the energy sector is for cooling at thermal power plants, as water is the most effective medium for carrying away its huge quantities of waste heat. Though the amount used for biofuels and fossil fuels may appear minor on a global level, this must be viewed in the context of local water resources and potential risks posed to water quality. Water withdrawal by the energy sector is expected to rise by one-fifth through 2035, while the amount consumed (not returned directly to the environment) increases by a more dramatic 85%.

23 Jul 2013 at 12:17
Sylvie Lemmet, the Director of the Technology, Industry and Economics Division at United
18 Jul 2013 at 4:14
Misguided solutions can sometimes create a legacy that is very difficult to handle. Here
27 Feb 2013 at 10:17
  Hello everyone,  As mentioned in the earlier post, I got special permission
27 Feb 2013 at 10:00
Hello everyone,  I got special permission to invite members of this group to 2 water
13 Feb 2013 at 6:14
  From toys in your local toy store to cosmetics sold in Paris, today it is hard to
29 Dec 2012 at 6:52
Hello all, Did you know? 'for every gallon of residential water used in
4 Mar 2012 at 15:12
ACWUA’s 5th Best Practices Conference Utilities Perspective on Water Resources Management

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