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article imageEnergy and power or drinking water: Choices to be made by 2040

By Karen Graham     Jul 30, 2014 in Environment
Man cannot live without water for more than but a few days. Every single function in our body depends on this life-sustaining fluid. But with increasing demands for electricity, recent studies are warning of a severe water shortage in the next 30 years.
Studies are warning us of a severe water shortage by the year 2040 if the world's energy and power situation is not reined in. Two new reports on the electricity and water problem have just been published. The studies took three years and focus on the increasing world population and the current energy and electricity solutions being used today.
Of prime interest is the obvious clash of two competing necessities, drinking water, a vital necessity, and electricity, also considered vital. Behind the research are scientific groups from Aarhus University in Denmark, Vermont Law School and CNA Corporation in the US.
In referencing the two reports, Bejamin Sovacool, director of the Center for Energy Technology at Aarhus University said, “Three years of research show that by the year 2040 there will not be enough water in the world to quench the thirst of the world population and keep the current energy and power solutions going if we continue doing what we are doing today."
In 1900, the world's population stood at 1.6 billion people. Since that time, there has been a three-fold increase to 7.095 billion people. Water consumption has increased six-fold. With expected increases in world population by the year 2030, there will be an increase in food demand exceeding 50 percent. Coupled with that is the expected 60 percent increase in energy demands from all sources.
Herein lies the problem the studies focused on: The decreasing supply of water globally needed for energy production, agriculture, and of course, drinking water. In most countries, the production of electricity uses the most water because power plants need water in the cooling cycle. The only power sources not needing water are wind and solar power systems, and the study recommends the eventual replacement of other power sources with these two sustainable power sources.
Professor Sovacool says "It's a huge problem that the electricity sector do not even realise how much water they actually consume. And together with the fact that we do not have unlimited water resources, it could lead to a serious crisis if nobody acts on it soon."
Combining research results with projections on world water scarcity by 2020, the scientists found that many areas of the world will not have access to clean water. Another 30-40 percent of the world will be experiencing water scarcity. This has nothing to do with climate change. But climate change will obviously make water scarcity even worse.
The researchers recommended six issues that need to be taken into consideration by countries and policy-makers around the world:
Improve energy efficiency
Better research on alternative cooling cycles
Registering how much water power plants use
Massive investments in wind energy
Massive investments in solar energy
Abandon fossil fuel facilities in all water stressed places (which means half the planet)
The researchers focused their research on four different case studies in France, the United States, China and India. Instead of looking at water usage at the national level, they focused on individual utilities and specific energy suppliers. Current energy needs were identified and projections were made based on population and water needs. The projections went as far as 2040, and they got some surprising results.
"If we keep doing business as usual, we are facing an insurmountable water shortage -- even if water was free, because it's not a matter of the price. There will no water by 2040 if we keep doing what we're doing today. There's no time to waste. We need to act now," concludes Professor Benjamin Sovacool.
More about Choices, Energy, electrical power, Drinking water, Water shortage
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