10 reasons you should care about water and energy

Ferth Vandensteen Manaysay
Things you need to know about the interdependence of water and energy, and how the world can attain security in both sectors

WATER GIVES ENERGY.  For the so-called bottom billion, the day-to-day concerns have to do with inadequate access to water, sanitation, and electricity. File photo by Joseph Galea/UN Water

MANILA, Philippines – This much we know: energy and water are interconnected. While water security translates into sufficient and affordable energy, attaining energy security largely depends on water sufficiency.

This, too, we know: As the global population rises, the UN projects that the demand for water and energy will increase considerably over the coming decades.

This is why this year’s World Water Day has been dedicated to talk about the twin objective of water and energy security. The international community is calling for more innovative solutions. (READ: Water and energy crisis)

“In 2014, the UN System – working closely with its Member States and other relevant stakeholders – is collectively bringing its attention to the water-energy nexus, particularly addressing inequities, especially for the ‘bottom billion’ who live in slums and impoverished rural areas and survive without access to safe drinking water, adequate sanitation, sufficient food and energy services,” UN Water said on its campaign website.

(READ also: Energy and water security for a robust, green economy, where Von Hernandez, executive director of Greenpeace Southeast Asia, explains one of the challenges presented by the “critical dependencies between water and energy usage, also known as the ‘water-energy nexus.'”)

Here are 10 quick facts and figures on the UN Water that you should know:

  • More than 780 million people still do not have access to safe drinking water, but some studies show that number of people who are not satisfied can as high as 3.5 billion, with 2.5 billion lacking adequate sanitation. Such circumstances resulted to the yearly death of about 6 to 8 million people due to disasters and water-related diseases.
  • Water demand in terms of water withdrawals is projected to increase by some 44% by 2050 due to growing demands from manufacturing, thermal power generation (mainly from the expansion of coal and gas powered plants), agriculture, and domestic use.
  • Energy production accounts for roughly 15% of all water withdrawals, or roughly 75% of all industrial water withdrawals.
  • 1.3 billion people currently live without electricity, and roughly 2.6 billion use solid fuels (mainly biomass) for cooking.
  • Hydroelectricity, which can also require abundant water supplies, accounts for about 15% of global electricity production.
  • By 2035, global water withdrawals for energy are expected to increase by 20%, whereas water consumption for energy is expected to increase by 85%.
  • It is estimated that more than 80% of used water worldwide – and up to 90% in developing countries – is neither collected nor treated, threatening human and environmental health.
  • Roughly 75% of all industrial water withdrawals are used for energy production.
  • For developing countries alone, $103 billion per year are required to finance water, sanitation, and wastewater treatment through 2015.
  • Hydroelectricity is the largest renewable source for power generation and its share in total electricity generation is expected to remain around 16% through 2035.

Sustainable practices

For this year, the UN Water also focuses on how people can better understand the sustainable practices that are very useful in confronting the challenges brought by water insufficiency and energy insecurity.

Below are the key messages of this year’s celebration which can be used by the different sectors involved in the water-energy nexus campaigns:

1. Water requires energy and energy requires water.
Water is required to produce nearly all forms of energy. Energy is needed at all stages of water extraction, treatment, and distribution.

2. Supplies are limited and demand is increasing.
Demand for freshwater and energy will continue to increase significantly over the coming decades. This increase will present big challenges and strain resources in nearly all regions, especially in developing and emerging economies. 

3. Saving energy is saving water. Saving water is saving energy.
Choices concerning the supply, distribution, price, and use of water and energy impact one another.

4. The “bottom billion” urgently needs access to both water and sanitation services, and electricity.
Worldwide, 1.3 billion people cannot access electricity, 768 million people lack access to improved water sources, and 2.5 billion people have no improved sanitation. Water and energy have crucial impacts on poverty alleviation.

5. Improving water and energy efficiency is imperative as are coordinated, coherent, and concerted policies.
Better understanding between the two sectors of the connections and effects on each other will improve coordination in energy and water planning, leading to reducing inefficiencies.

Policy-makers, planners, and practitioners can take steps to overcome the barriers that exist between their respective domains. Innovative and pragmatic national policies can lead to more efficient and cost effective provision of water and energy services. 

The ability of the international community to confront the challenges of water and energy insecurity is determined in the manner the decision- and policy-makers are able to take advantage of or create fresh ideas to address them. (READ: Water security Rappler.com 

To learn more about this year’s theme, visit the World Water Day 2014 website

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