Water is one of our most important resources. It is used around the world for the production of electricity. However, new research shows that there will not be enough water in the world to meet demand by 2040 it the energy and power situation doesn’t improve by then.
Two new reports that focus on the global electricity water situation have just been published. Three years of research shows that by the year 2040 there will not be enough water in the world to quench the thirst of all the people on the planet and keep the current energy and power supply going if we continue on the path we are on.
It’s a clash of competing necessities, between drinking water and energy demand. Behind the research is a group of researchers from Aarhus University in Denmark, Vermont Law School and CNA Corporation in the United States.
Electricity is the largest source of water consumption in most countries, because the power plants need cooling cycles in order to function. The only energy systems that don’t require cooling cycles are wind and solar systems, and therefore one of the primary recommendations is issued by these researchers is to replace old power systems with more sustainable wind and solar systems.
One surprising detail the research also found was that most power systems don’t even register how much water is being used to keep the systems going.
Water issues will start affecting 30-40% of the world by 2020
“It’s a huge problem that the electricity sector do not even realize 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,” says Professor Benjamin Sovacool from Aarhus University.
With the combination of new research results and projections about water shortage and the world population, by 2020 many areas of the world will no longer have access to clean drinking water.
In fact, the results predict that by 2020 about 30-40% of the world will have water scarcity, and according to the researchers, climate change can make this crisis even worse.
“This means that we’ll have to decide where we spend our water in the future. Do we want to spend it on keeping the power plants going or as drinking water? We don’t have enough water to do both,” says Professor Benjamin Sovacool.
The researchers emphasize six general recommendations, in the reports, for decision-makers to follow in order to stop this development and handle the crisis around the world. They include:
- 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 areas (this is half the planet)
Focus on four different areas
The team of researchers conducted their research by focusing on four different case studies in France, the United States, China and India respectively. The team focused on specific utilities and energy suppliers, rather than reviewing the situation on a national level.
The first step was identifying the current energy needs, and then the researchers made projections as far as 2040, and most of the results were surprising. All four case studies project that it will be impossible to continue to produce electricity in this way and meet the water demand by 2040.
“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.