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Energy and water – two intimately linked resources

Posted on 02 September 2014.

The relationship between energy and water will be the focus of discussions during the World Water Week in Stockholm from August 31 to September 5, 2014.

For six days hundreds of experts, policy makers, businesses and international organizations will converge on Stockholm to discuss water-related issues.

Designing water and energy management as a coordinated system to set up an environmentally virtuous circle.

The special focus for the 2014 World Water Week is the relationship between energy and water. Lumping these apparently disparate resources together may seem surprising at first sight. Nevertheless, they are closely linked. Without water there is no energy production and without energy there is no drinking water. Each is also essential for satisfying our basic needs. Population growth and urbanization in developing countries over the next thirty years will greatly increase the demand for energy. And our freshwater resources are increasingly scarce.

Water is crucial in every stage of electricity and fuel production. It is for example used to cool power plant equipment and to supply their furnaces. It takes roughly 2,500 liters of water - particularly for growing plants - to produce 1 liter of liquid biofuel. It takes between 3 and 5 liters of water to extract one barrel of crude oil - and sometimes more. If water is injected into an oil reserve, it actually improves yield...

Saving energy therefore saves water too. But can we drastically reduce our consumption? It isn’t quite that simple.

It takes energy to supply people with drinking water. Energy to pump, treat and turn fresh water into drinking water. As fresh water reserves become depleted over the next few years, it will take even more energy to ensure the availability and quality of drinking water. Already some countries in the Middle East have been forced to use energy-intensive desalination techniques.

Despite water and energy being interdependent, the management of these two resources has not been coordinated as a matter of course. Although it is now widely accepted that they should be managed sustainably and efficiently, the realization that they have to be managed "as a whole” is altogether new.

Systematically considering water and energy management as a coordinated system opens up the possibility of establishing a virtuous circle.

Water and energy governance policies have to be amalgamated; synergies have to be developed between sectors of activity and between the various stakeholders; energy-efficient and low-water consumption solutions have to be designed.

Already new initiatives are flourishing in various parts of the world. In Queensland Australia, water used in natural gas production by the BG Group is being treated and recycled for use in industry and agriculture. A "thermos" in the Swedish city of Borås stores energy produced from biomass and waste in the summer and then uses this energy to supply the district heating network in winter. In Val d'Europe near Paris, the energy recovered from data centers will help supply heating and hot water to homes and offices. In Suzhou in China a wastewater treatment plant is making for reduced water and energy consumption and producing cleaner energy.

These initiatives will be lauded during World Water Week – and are constantly celebrated here at #LivingCircular.

For more information:

- Thematic Scope: Energy and Water
- Water for energy! Production of fuel and electricity
- The link between water and energy