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UN report highlights water crisis, link between water and energy

Agence France-Presse reports, “In a report published on the eve of World Water Day, (the United Nations) said the cravings for clean water and electricity were intertwined and could badly strain Earth’s limited resources. …The World Water Development Report, the fifth in the series by the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation, is an overview collated from data from scientific studies and investigations by agencies. It said ever more freshwater will be needed for farming, construction, drinking, cooking, washing and sewerage, but also for energy production — 90 per cent of which uses water-intensive techniques today.”

Fracking & tar sands

“Shale deposits and tar sands, driving an energy boom in North America, are especially hefty in their demands for water to force out the precious gas and oil, the report said. Even so, ‘they are outstripped by far by biofuels’, said researcher Richard Connor, who headed the study. Renewable sources like solar and wind energy that use far less water are gaining ground, and accounted for about a fifth of global electricity output in 2011, the report said. But they are unlikely to expand this share significantly if fossil fuels continue receiving the bulk of subsidies, it said. Oil, gas and coal had subsidies of $523 billion (376 billion euros) in 2011, nearly 30 per cent more than in 2010, compared to $88 billion for renewables, the report said, citing International Energy Agency (IEA) figures.”

Major dams

“Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean have plenty of potential for hydro-energy, which reuses the precious resource, it added. Hydro-electric dams have been extremely controversial. Big projects deliver gigawatts of power but critics say they are ecologically damaging and prone to massive cost overruns.”

The future

“The report gave this snapshot of the future:

– Global water demand is likely to increase by 55 per cent by 2050.

– By then, more than 40 per cent of the world’s population will be living in areas of ‘severe’ water stress, many of them in the broad swathe of land from North Africa and the Middle East to western South Asia.

– Asia will be the biggest hotspot for bust-ups over water extraction, where water sources straddle national borders. ‘Areas of conflict include the Aral Sea and the Ganges-Brahmaputra River, Indus River and Mekong River basins’, said the report.

– Global energy demand is expected to grow by more than a third by 2035, with China, India and Middle Eastern countries accounting for 60 per cent of the increase.

– In 2010, energy production gobbled up 66 billion cubic metres (2,300 billion cu. feet) of fresh water — more than the average annual flow of the River Nile in Egypt.

– By 2035, this consumption could rise by 85 per cent, driven by power plant cooling systems that work with water.”

Presently, “About 20 per cent of the world’s aquifers today are depleted, according to the UN report. Agriculture accounts for more than two-thirds of water use.”

The Council of Canadians water campaign and the Blue Planet Project both take action for water justice. Council of Canadians chairperson and Blue Planet Project founder offers solutions to the global water crisis in her book Blue Future: Protecting Water for People and the Planet Forever.