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thirsty energy

A tipping point for water

Junaid Kamal Ahmad's picture

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This blog originally appeared on The Huffington Post as part of a series, "What's Working: Sustainable Development Goals." 

As a sector in world affairs, water is reaching a tipping point. Over the next two decades, the global push for food and energy security and for sustaining urbanization will place unprecedented demands on water.

Ours is a "thirsty" world, in which agriculture and energy compete with the needs of cities. At the same time, climate change may worsen the situation by increasing water stress and extreme-weather events. Hence, the water and climate nexus can no longer be a side event at global-climate talks. All of this is happening while the important push for universal access to water and sanitation services -- despite the impressive gains over the past several decades -- remains an unfinished agenda.

Ahead of World Water Day: Let’s Talk about … Energy?

William Rex's picture

For the last six years, a power plant in San Luis Potosi, Mexico has bought water from a nearby wastewater treatment plant to use in its cooling towers (instead of using freshwater). This operation, Project Tenorio, a public-private partnership, continues today and has already resulted in the reduction of groundwater extraction of at least 48 million cubic meters (equivalent to 19,000 Olympic size pools) and increased aquifer sustainability.
This is a good example of the water and energy nexus in practice: the wastewater treatment plant covers almost all of its operating costs from this additional revenue stream and the power plant gets a more reliable water source that is also 33% cheaper than groundwater in that area.  

Treated wastewater has been used to reduce the water requirements of power plants in several other countries as well, as water supply becomes more variable or disappears. In the US, for example, around 50 power plants are using treated wastewater for cooling in order to adapt to water shortages. However, innovative integrated approaches like these are still more of an exception than the norm.

4 Ways Water Shortages Are Harming Energy Production

Diego Juan Rodriguez's picture

In countries around the world, meeting daily energy needs is dependent on water. Finding sufficient water resources to produce the required energy, however, and then appropriately allocating the limited supply, is becoming more difficult.

Cutting Water Consumption in Concentrated Solar Power Plants

Julia Bucknall's picture
Concentrated solar power (CSP) systems are a great promise for renewable energy at scale.  But they can use a lot of water, which is a problem since they tend to be located in places where water is scarce. Some concentrated solar technologies need to withdraw as much as 3,500 liters per Megawatt hour (MWh) generated.