With global demand for water to increase substantially over the next few decades, all nations (but especially those already experiencing water stress) must take steps now to manage their limited resources more effectively, while also investing in the right kind of energy systems.
As the World Resources Institute (WRI) notes, power generation consumes an awful lot of water, whether it’s to move turbines for hydropower or to cool the steam in thermoelectric plants. Because the power generated from solar photovoltaic (PV) and wind needs little to no water use and is clean, such renewable forms of energy could help countries meet increased electricity demands without using water or contributing to carbon emissions.
WRI research shows that the top 20 water stressed countries that have the most average solar energy potential are the Middle East and North African region, while the rest are from Latin America, Sub-Saharan Africa and from Asia and the Pacific. Yemen (one of the most water stressed and least developed countries in the world) was found to have the highest average solar energy potential with regards to global horizontal irradiance.
Using such renewable energy forms could prove to be particularly beneficial for those nations that have burgeoning populations, as well as farms and industries that are already competing for restricted water supplies. The WRI also noted that India would be able to reduce its water consumption intensity by over 25 per cent if it succeeded in achieving its renewable energy targets.
There was much in the news at the beginning of the year about Cape Town approaching Day Zero, when taps in the city were about to run dry… a day that was successfully pushed back by severe water-saving measures
But in India, for many parts of the country Day Zero has already come and gone for residents, with taps having failed long ago and people now either digging wells or buying water, according to Reuters.
Increased demand for water from industry and agriculture, coupled with the expanding population and poor water supply management, has seen the groundwater in the country reach even lower levels. This along with rising temperatures is having a significant impact on water scarcity, experts have now said.
A 2018 WaterAid report shows that almost 163 million people in the country (out of a population of 1.3 billion) don’t have access to clean water close to their homes… the most of any country in the entire world.
Speaking to the news source, deputy director and South Asia expert with policy thinktank the Wilson Center Michael Kugelman said: “Countries that get along the least are forced to share and cooperate over water resources, and many major rivers originate in, or pass through, politically contested and tense areas. So you have population growth, intensifying climate change impacts, poor water management and geopolitical tensions. It’s a perfect storm for greater water insecurity.”