Growing energy demand adds stress to water supply

August 24, 2011 by Martin Abbugao
A Cambodian man throws a fishing net into the fertile Mekong river in Phnom Penh. A Google search for "world water shortage" will produce more than four million results in 0.17 seconds and it will also use a tenth of a teaspoon of water, experts say.

A Google search for "world water shortage" will produce more than four million results in 0.17 seconds. It will also use a tenth of a teaspoon of water, experts say.

Given water's role in , the impact of about 300 million Google searches a day is around 150,000 litres (40,000 gallons) daily -- in a world where water supplies are increasingly a major concern.

"These two things -- water and -- come together and that's a big thing for the world to understand," says Len Rodman, a US-based water and energy expert.

"If you squander water, if you indiscriminately use power, then in the long run that will have implications for the world," the chief executive of Black & Veatch, a major global water and energy company told AFP in an interview.

Water is used not only to generate power through dams and steam but also as a coolant for nuclear, coal and gas-fired power plants, which are competing with agriculture, industry and urban consumption for .

The Asian Development Bank has forecast the region's energy demand to double by 2030 to 6,325 million tonnes of oil equivalent, or about 74 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity.

Water will play an increasing role as a power source for Asia but supplies are already under threat, said the ADB.

China and India, the world's most populous nations, are expected to have a combined shortfall of one trillion cubic metres (35 trillion cubic feet) of water within 20 years.

Bangladesh, Cambodia, Nepal, Pakistan, the Philippines and Vietnam are already under "water stress" conditions, meaning they are experiencing periodic or limited water shortages.

A boy plays in a water feature nearby Singapore's Lower Seletar Reservoir. Water is used not only to generate power through dams and steam but also as a coolant for nuclear, coal and gas-fired power plants, which are competing with agriculture, industry and urban consumption for water supplies.

During an international water conference in Singapore in July attended by Rodman, industry players and government officials called for better integration of water and energy policies to help find solutions to looming shortages.

"There is a growing realisation that we can no longer think about energy and water separately," Peter Gleick, president of the Pacific Institute in California, said at the conference.

A recent survey of more than 700 US utilities firms by Black & Veatch showed that for the first time, water supply was the top environmental concern among the respondents.

Asia is likely to face the same problems, Rodman said.

"It will truly be exacerbated in this region because of the urban densities that are there. You've got tremendous numbers of highly concentrated urban areas," he said.

The needs of the region's agricultural sector can also affect power supplies.

In 2008, 2.2 billion cubic metres of water were diverted from three major hydroelectric plants in Vietnam for agriculture, leading to a shortfall of 430 million kilowatt-hours of electricity, Black & Veatch said.

Research is continually being carried out on water treatment technologies that require less energy as well as power-generation facilities that would need less water, experts said.

Advanced technologies to treat polluted water as well as recycle water from toilets, kitchen sinks and sewers for use in homes and industries will help address Asia's future needs, they said.

Companies like Siemens Water Technologies are doing research aimed at integrating desalination -- an energy-intensive process to purify seawater -- with solar power.

Rodman said encouraging people to change their consumption patterns of water and energy by helping them understand the link between the two is equally important.

"Gone are the days when is independent from energy," he said.

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5 / 5 (1) Aug 24, 2011
There was a water shortage in some African country 20 years ago. The Finnish Green Party kept preaching about saving water and how frivolous water usage is a disgrace. This lead people to buy water-saving toilets, turn off the shower while shampooing their hair, etc.

After about a year, the Helsinki water works had to start spilling drinking water right into the sea. Reason: the pipe system was getting clogged with sediment because the flow rate went below design level.

The Helsinki metropolitan area water comes from a lake system via the longest water tunnel in the world from a lake system where the needs of one million consumers make no difference.

This same party wants us to use coal instead of nuclear for power. Now, I'd say it's okay to choose coal if one admits it's for fear. But pretending that coal is better for the environment than nuclear is simply self-deception.
5 / 5 (1) Aug 24, 2011
For all those with critical thinking ability - what happens to the water once it is used for power generation. Is the author saying that the power plants have somehow developed the ability to change the water into hydrogen and oxygen? As far as I know when the water is finished in power generation you have slightly warm water.

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