Managing Demand in the Water and Energy Symbiosis
It’s a bottom-line; the more energy we use, the more water we need for production.
The more water we need to use for energy production, the more energy we use in the process.
Energy and utilities companies need to work closely together to developed
integrated solutions to reduce water usage during energy production.
Collaborating to address the relationship between water and energy, will help
water utilities better manage their investments, significantly
reduce ever-increasing energy costs, and have a positive ipact on their carbon and other
The whole of the energy industry relies heavily on fresh water supplies. The need
for water in the energy industry is well document, from production to transportation
and refining all require water. Electricity generation is a particularly water intensive process.
Large amounts of fresh water supply are withdrawn by the energy industry, thermoelectric
plants, such as coal, natural gas and nuclear, draw large amounts of fresh
water for cooling . Water is also required to turn hydro-electric turbines.
While many governments promote the use of renewable energy to meet energy saving targets,
improve energy security and reduce fossil fuel reliance.
However, with the specific exceptions of solar power, wind power
and wave power generation, bio-fuels require considerably
more fresh water than electricity generated from traditional fossil fuels.
For example, irrigated corn ethanol requires roughly 3,800 litres of water per
MMBTu. What is more, carbon capture and sequestration reportedly adds 45-90% more water to coal-fired
More and more oil and gas suppliers are turning to unconventional resources for supply. The concern with this is,
how much water exactly, will these resources require. Water is used in the oil and gas industry to extract heavy
bitumen from oil sands, making tar sands more water intensive. Even the most water
efficient facilities use between 130 – 190lt of water per MMBtu.
The energy sector also often has damaging implications on the quality of water supply.
A serious threat is hydraulic fracturing, which is used to release gas trapped inside of
rock formations. Also known as fracking, this method involves pumping a mixture
of water, chemicals and sand into the rock, whih can then esily find its way into water bodies.
Fracking increases water treatment costs for utilities, is damaging to the environment
and requires a significant amount of water.
On the flip side, the water industry is also hugely dependent on power. Electricity
is needed to lift water from aquifers and pump it through pipes and canals.
Power is also necessary to control the pressure and flow of water, to treat water and wastewater.
As water scarcity continues, more water will need to be pumped for longer distances, or produced by alternative
means such as seawater desalination. Seawater desalination are particularly energy intensive.
In Conclusion: The future of the energy and water sectors are connected.Increased demand for energy,
means an increased demand for water, which means utilities and water sources are likely to have difficult
to supply. Rapidly increasing water demand, especially in areas of scarcity, will ultimately lead to
higher energy useage, which means higher energy costs and further investment in the
water infrastructure. The symbiotic relationship between water and energy can no longer be ignored.
An integrated approach means solving key issues between the water and energy sectors is likely to lead to lower carbon emissions,
which will benefit our ecosystem. In the energy industry, when developing new projects , the impact on water resources should
be kept to an absolute minimum. At the same time, water projects should keep energy requirements down to a minimum.
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