About 5 years ago we embarked on a global initiative titled “Thirsty Energy” to respond to water-energy nexus challenges around the world. The initiative, a joint effort of the Water and the Energy Global Practices at the World Bank, has finally come to an end. We wanted to reflect on the lessons learnt along the way, as our team has developed a fantastic set of material and methodologies to move the needle forward on this issue. We hope that the global community takes advantage of this to ignite change.
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Access to a safe, sustainable water supply is a growing concern in every region of the world. In many communities, groundwater is being pumped by diesel fueled systems, which are both expensive and can be difficult to maintain. In communities where electricity is scarce, solar can be a part of the solution.
The highest demand for solar pumps is among rural off-grid areas, currently underserved, or served by costly fuel-driven pumps. Solar pumping is most competitive in regions with high solar insolation, which include most of Africa, South America, South Asia, and Southeast Asia; but the technology can operate successfully in almost any region of the world.
To many people, it is a surprise to learn that in an age of such advanced technology, at least 663 million people still lack access to basic needs, like safe drinking water, or that 2.5 billion people lack access to sanitation, such as a toilet or latrine. And while much progress has been made, receiving safe drinking water 24 hours a day, seven days a week simply by turning a tap is still a dream for many in the developing world.
Even fewer realize this is not just a problem for families, but also for those on which families rely and that also need water: the farmers who grow the families’ food, the environment that protects and sustains their homes and communities, the businesses that employ them, the cities that house them, the schools that educate their children, the clinics and hospitals that treat them, and even the power plants that generate their electricity.
Why does this challenge persist? How can this challenge be met? And an increasingly urgent question: is there enough water to go around?
Yet Africa’s infrastructure networks lag increasingly behind those of other developing countries in providing telecom, electricity, and water supply and sanitation services. Two-thirds of the population in the region lacks access to electricity and five out of six people don't have access to piped water. The people and industries that do have services pay twice as much as those outside Africa, further reducing regional competitiveness and growth. As cities continue to flood with migrants looking for better economic opportunities, power and water utilities are being challenged to improve the services offered to existing and new users. Given scarce resources and competing development priorities, it is essential to establish ways of using resources (and knowledge!) more effectively.
Cities over the past century have become the driving force of the global economy. Accounting for over half the world’s population and generating around 80% of global GDP, cities provide numerous opportunities for development and growth. Cities however bring about risks and challenges to people and the environment. By 2050, demand for water is projected to increase by 55% mainly due to increased demand from urban populations. At the same time
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The global water community is gathering in Stockholm for World Water Week 2016. This year’s theme, “Water for Sustainable Growth,” comes at a critical time, as we are mobilizing to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), in which water plays an essential part.
It drives economic growth, supports healthy ecosystems, and is fundamental for life. However, water can threaten health and prosperity as well as promote it. Water-related hazards, including floods, storms, and droughts, are already responsible for 9 out of 10 natural disasters, and climate change is expected to increase these risks.
Over the next two decades and beyond, ‘thirsty agriculture’ and ‘thirsty energy’ competing with the needs of ‘thirsty cities’ will place new and increasing demands on the water sector. Over 4 billion people currently live in areas where water consumption is greater than renewable resources for part of the year – a number that will continue to increase.
This scenario is not unique. For many countries like Myanmar, where only one-third of the population has access to electricity, hydropower presents a compelling opportunity to increase energy supply at low costs and make important contributions to development objectives and water resources management.
Myanmar has ambitious future hydropower development plans that mirror the trends seen globally. Projections show that the world is poised to nearly double hydropower capacity by 2040, building as many hydropower dams in the next 25 years as were built in the previous century.
In a report funded by the United Kingdom’s Department for International Development (DFID), The Nature Conservancy worked with WWF and the University of Manchester to demonstrate a framework that could be applied in Myanmar and replicated worldwide to change the trajectory of water resource development towards a more sustainable path. By adopting system-scale planning and engaging diverse stakeholders, Myanmar has the opportunity to be a leader and global example.
This week, the 2015 Paris Climate Conference, or COP21, will gather countries that want to take action for the climate. A central topic of these discussions will focus on the intersection of water and climate change.
Combating climate change is everyone’s business. Reducing emissions and investing in renewable energy, improving city planning and building design standards, developing more efficient transportation, and reducing deforestation (among others) all play key roles in mitigating the effects of climate change. At the same time, countries, and industries, will also need to adapt to changes in the climate as they unfold. Since climate change will significantly increase the variability of rainfall, different parts of the world will become more vulnerable to floods or droughts.
“Water scarcity and variability pose significant risks to all economic activities, including food and energy production, manufacturing and infrastructure development,“ said Laura Tuck, World Bank Group Vice President for Sustainable Development during a recent press conference at COP21. “Poor water management can exacerbate the effects of climate change on economic growth, but if water is managed well it can go a long way to neutralizing the negative impacts.”
It’s been 27 years since I have been to Sweden, backpacking my way around the country and marveling at its beautiful natural environment. So it was with real excitement that I set off for the SIWI World Water Week in Stockholm that ran between 23-28 August. I was especially keen to understand better the big issues that the world is facing, particularly since the theme this year was “Water for Development.”
My World Bank colleagues, and particularly those from the Water Global Practice, were well represented and participated in 13 of the events during the week, so the stage was set for serious discussion. As part of that discussion, I presented on the challenges of financing for development in the water sector. I wanted to leave the audience with three key messages. These were that (1) water is physically but not financially transparent; (2) financial innovation has to be conducted in parallel with and reflect the transitional nature of capital markets and (3) other sectors can give us guidance.