Energy and water

Exploring the interdependence of two critical resources

Energy supply depends on water. Water supply depends on energy. The interdependency of water and energy is set to intensify in the coming years, with significant implications for both energy and water security. Each resource faces rising demands and constraints in many regions as a consequence of economic and population growth and climate change.

Key findings

Global water use in the energy sector, 2016


Today the energy sector accounts for 10% of global water withdrawals and 3% of consumption; the water sector worldwide uses almost as much energy as Australia

Water is essential for all phases of energy production, from fossil fuels to biofuels and power generation. IEA analysis found that today, the energy sector withdrawals around 340 billion cubic metres (bcm) of water (the volume of water removed from a source) and consumes roughly 50 bcm (the volume of water withdrawn but not returned to the source). Energy is also vital for a range of water processes, including water distribution, wastewater treatment and desalination. Most of this is in the form of electricity (850 TWh), representing around 4% of global electricity consumption. The rest (some 50 mtoe) is used for some desalination technologies and for diesel pumps. How this this nexus is managed is critical for the energy community as it has implications for clean energy transitions, energy security and the attainment of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).