Water scarcity now linked to slowing energy production

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Water scarcity now linked to slowing energy production

A new initiative has been launched by the World Bank that aims to link the water and power industries better globally.

Called Thirsty Energy, the initiative will help design “assessment tools and management frameworks” to help governments “coordinate decision-making” when it comes to scaling up water and power projects.

The challenge faced is that energy production is water intensive yet often the companies responsible for power and water are separate.

Last year alone, water shortages reportedly shut down thermal power plants in India, decreased energy production in power plants in the United States and threatened hydropower generation in many countries, including Sri Lanka, China and Brazil.

The International Energy Agency said that by 2035 the world’s energy consumption will increase by 35%, which in turn will increase water consumption by 85%.

Part of the challenge for the energy sector is the competing demand for water. This demand will grow as the world’s population reaches 9 billion, requiring a 50% increase in agricultural production and a 15% increase in already-strained water withdrawals.

With two-thirds of the world’s population - or 5 billion people - urbanized by 2030, cities in developing countries will be under tremendous pressure to meet the demand for food, energy, and water services.

Yet today, some 780 million people lack access to improved water and 2.5 billion, more than one-third of the world's people, do not have basic sanitation.

With the energy sector as an entry point for Thirsty Energy, initial work has already started in South Africa and dialogue has been initiated in Bangladesh, Morocco, and Brazil where the challenges have already manifested and thus where demand exists for integrated approaches, according to the World Bank.

The World Bank said that failing to anticipate water constraints in energy investments can increase risks and costs for energy projects. In fact, the majority of energy and utility companies consider water a substantive risk and report water-related business impacts, it said.

Rachel Kyte, World Bank group vice president and special envoy for Climate Change, said: The water energy interrelationship is critical to build resilient as well as efficient, clean energy systems. The time to act is now.”

Maria van der Hoeven, executive director of the International Energy Agency, added: “Water constraints on the energy sector can be overcome, but all stakeholders, public and private, must work together to develop innovative tools and use water as a guiding factor for assessing viability of projects. The absence of integrated planning is unsustainable.”

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