The energy sector already accounts for about 15% of the world’s total water use, so for World Water Day, on 22 March, the International Energy Agency (IEA) is sharing its most detailed analysis of the sector’s impact on water resources.
“Water for Energy: Is energy becoming a thirstier resource?”, a chapter from the IEA World Energy Outlook 2012 (WEO-2012), is now available for free on the IEA website. The analysis reveals how much water is used by various energy processes and assesses the sector’s vulnerabilities as rising population and growing economies constrain water resources around the globe.
“Water availability is a growing concern for energy, and assessing the energy sector’s use of water is important in an increasingly water-constrained world,” IEA Executive Director Maria van der Hoeven said. “The IEA’s in-depth analysis of the nexus of water and energy can help countries identify ways to use water most effectively and efficiently in energy production and consumption. Now the IEA is sharing that expertise with everyone.”
Water is critical for electricity generation as well as the extraction, transport and processing of fossil fuels, even the irrigation of crops that go into biofuels. Water shortages in India and the United States, among other countries, have limited energy output in the past two years, while the heavy use of water in unconventional oil and gas production has generated considerable public concern.
Moreover, the energy sector’s water needs are set to grow, making water an increasingly important criterion for assessing the viability of energy projects. In some regions, water constraints are already affecting the reliability of existing operations and they will introduce additional costs. The IEA analysis draws on the WEO-2012’s central policy scenario to show that expanding power generation and biofuels output underpin an 85% increase in the amount consumed (the volume of water that is not returned to its source after use) through to 2035.
“Since water and energy are essential resources, we need to find ways to ensure that use of one does not limit access to the other. As demand for both continues to increase, this will be a growing challenge and priority,” Ms. Van der Hoeven emphasised.
To download the WEO-2012 excerpt "Water for Energy: Is energy becoming a thirstier resource?", please click here.
About the IEA
The International Energy Agency is an autonomous organisation that works to ensure reliable, affordable and clean energy for its 29 member countries and beyond. Founded in response to the 1973/4 oil crisis, the IEA’s initial role was to help countries co-ordinate a collective response to major disruptions in oil supply. While this remains a key aspect of its work, the IEA has evolved and expanded. It is at the heart of global dialogue on energy, providing authoritative research, statistics, analysis and recommendations.
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