The main message of the just-released UN’s 2014 World Water Development Report is of the challenges to come and how to meet growing demands for freshwater, with a focus on water and energy. “ The fact is that nearly all forms of energy production require a certain amount of water – in some cases a very large amount – which has critical implications for water resources, and by extension to other uses.” The report notes that 20% of freshwater withdrawals is for industry: of that, three-quarters is used for energy production.
“ Water resources have been considered by some to be a public good (though the economic definition of ‘public good’ does not apply to freshwater) – with access to safe water and sanitation recognized as a human right. Neither concept ordinarily applies to energy.”
Some key points of the report (quoted directly):
- An estimated 768 million people remain without access to an improved source of water – although by some estimates, the number of people whose right to water is not satisfied could be as high as 3.5 billion – and 2.5 billion remain without access to improved sanitation.
- Global water demand (in terms of water withdrawals) is projected to increase by some 55% by 2050, mainly because of growing demands from manufacturing (400%), thermal electricity generation (140%) and domestic use (130%)
- As a result, freshwater availability will be increasingly strained….more than 40% of the global population is projected to be living in areas of severe water stress through 2050.
- There is clear evidence that groundwater supplies are diminishing, with an estimated 20% of the world’s aquifers being over-exploited, some critically so.
- Deterioration of wetlands worldwide is reducing the capacity of ecosystems to purify water.
- Global energy demand is expected to grow by more than one-third over the period to 2035, with China, India and the Middle Eastern countries accounting for about 60% of the increase.
- Electricity demand is expected to grow by approximately 70% by 2035.
- This growth will be almost entirely in non-Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) countries, with India and China accounting for more than half that growth.
Highly recommend 8-minute video with overview of how important freshwater is in the production of energy