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On oil-water nexus


In addition to the conventional energy market issues, mainly oil, related to price and production, the industry seems to be gearing for a new worry — how to handle the oil-water nexus.
A recent UN Water Day has a very simple message to deliver: Water needs energy and energy needs water. The interdependencies between the two is strengthened and consolidated by the day. After all some 90 percent of power generation is water-intensive.
Using various parameters to look into the crystal ball, the world seems to be heading toward increasing its energy consumption by more than a third in only two decades. Such increase requires an additional increase of 85 percent of water consumption according the consumers’ watch dog, the Paris-based International Energy Agency (IEA).
With such increase comes completion for supplies as the world population will top 9 billion people, who need an additional 50 percent in agricultural production. The pressure for more supplies is not only restricted to rural areas and agriculture, but the spreading urbanization — where five billion people expected to be living in cities, towns and urban centers by 2030 — will add to pressure to provide water to cater for their needs in food and energy supplies.
These future figures could easily be justified by the fact that currently some 8 percent of global energy supply is consumed to meet pumping, treatment and transportation of water from one place to another. The unconventional energy source like sand oil in Canada and fracking in the United States are both water intensive operations.
Moreover, removing water from its source, or ground water abstraction, is believed to be increasing by 1-2 percent per annum. In addition, an estimated 20 percent of the world’s aquifers are designated as over exploited. And that is why by 2035 the IEA thinks the world will increase its water consumption by 85 percent.
According to the World Bank, last year saw some troubling signs related to water shortage where thermal plants were closed down in India and power production declined in the United States, while in China, Sri Lanka and Brazil hydropower plants were threatened.
“The world’s energy and water are inextricably linked,” said World Bank Group Vice President and Special Envoy for Climate Change Rachel Kyte. “With demand rising for both resources and increasing challenges from climate change, water scarcity can threaten the long-term viability of energy projects and hinder development.”
To meet such challenge ideas are floating around to identify synergies and exchange energy and water development plans, ensure cross-sectoral planning to ensure sustainability for both water and energy in terms of investments, in addition to coordination at decision-making level so as to come up with the desired outcome.
When the world managed to overcome the first energy shock back in the 1970s many predicted that the scene was being prepared for water wars given the fact of growing population and that many rivers and water sources are crossing national borders with many disputes either taking place or are in the offing.
Though that scenario did not happen the way it was predicted, but the new emphasis on linkage between water and energy will revive the old interest and try to sort out some solutions that ought to be based on more rationale than sensationalism.
The first energy shock brought with it too pessimistic scenarios, including the Peak Oil theory that the world oil production has reached its peak and it has only one way to go — decline at the time population growth and urbanization will require more energy.
However, over time that prediction proved to be simplistic and that there are more energy resources that needs investments and technology to tap. The same could apply to water issues, where more innovative policies and administrative techniques are to be applied, in addition to rationalization of water use as in the case with energy. Such efforts can be productive if water-energy nexus is put under the spotlight so as to allow for more serious debate and exchange of ideas.
Energy and particularly oil got the description as a strategic commodity given its inseparable link to politics and security. Water can get more attention from leaders and rank and files alike. After all, it is the source of life. People can adjust their lives to reduced or no oil supplies, but can’t do that with water.

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9 Comments on "On oil-water nexus"

  1. Plantagenet on Sun, 30th Mar 2014 4:52 pm 

    Overpopulation puts pressure on all kinds of natural resources….oil, water, food, land and even air become polluted and unusable.

  2. Bob Owens on Sun, 30th Mar 2014 6:02 pm 

    Replace thermal power plants with solar and wind plants and water usage for electric generation will go down 95%! Solar plants don’t need to be located on rivers or near oceans, either!

  3. Kenz300 on Sun, 30th Mar 2014 7:20 pm 

    Over population is the worlds worst environmental problem.

    Every year the world adds 80 million more people to feed, clothe, house and provide energy for…….

    Around the world we have a food crisis, a water crisis, food stocks crisis, a declining fish stock crisis, a climate crisis, and an OVER POPULATION crisis that makes every other problem harder to solve.

    Save the world……….wrap it up……….. get snipped or have your tubes tied……….. access to family planning services needs to be available to all that want it.

  4. J-Gav on Sun, 30th Mar 2014 10:37 pm 

    Energy and water will both be major problems in the coming years (and infrastructure, and biodiversity loss and food production, etc)- we’ll have to get used to that somehow. Overcoming those challenges will by no means be easy. Success is not guaranteed. Some measure of suffering is, though we don’t yet know how much.

  5. rollin on Mon, 31st Mar 2014 1:16 am 

    Except in some stupidly placed cities in desert areas, there is no lack of water for human consumption. The water is being consumed by over-zealous agriculture and industrial uses. Plenty of water for people to use. Not enough if the industrial complex hogs it.

  6. Kenz300 on Mon, 31st Mar 2014 2:06 am 

    Coal, oil, nuclear and gas fired power plants use massive amounts of water to produce electricity.

    Wind and solar power plants use little or no water to produce electricity.

    Fracking uses huge amounts of water…………..

  7. Dave Thompson on Mon, 31st Mar 2014 2:20 am 

    Global climate change will solve all of humanities problems once and for all.

  8. Makati1 on Mon, 31st Mar 2014 2:55 am 

    Future prices:
    Drinkable water: $10 per Litre
    Gasoline: $10 per Litre
    Out-of-season foods: Not available.

    Income Budget:
    Shelter 40%
    Energy 40%
    Food/water 40%

    Yes, I know. Now you see the future.

  9. andya on Mon, 31st Mar 2014 4:02 am 

    “Except in some stupidly placed cities in desert areas, there is no lack of water for human consumption. The water is being consumed by over-zealous agriculture and industrial uses. Plenty of water for people to use. Not enough if the industrial complex hogs it.”

    LOL, hard to think of a more ignorant comment. Good luck eating food that was grown without water. Over zealous agriculture is using that water to put food in your belly. Stop irrigation! everyone will be clean, with a nice green lawn, hunger is a small price to pay.

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