Water and energy ten telling facts

By Peter Brabeck-Letmathe

19 March 2014 See comments (7)

HYDROPOWER is by far the number 1 renewable source of electricity generation.

The theme of this year’s World Water Day, on March 22, is ‘water and energy’, an important subject I feel deserves more attention, and one that readers of this blog will know I often write about.

As I’ve written previously, the complex connections between food, water and energy are unavoidably real and impossible to ignore. Here are ten reasons why:

1. Hydropower (pdf document) is by far the number 1 renewable source of electricity generation in the world, providing about 20% of electricity produced globally (more than 70% is from thermal generation, where water in cooling towers is actually consumed, not just used and then returned unaffected to the rivers). But hydropower is being increasingly challenged due to very high subsidies for less reliable solar and wind power.

2. Very conservative projections (pdf document) indicate that if by 2030, some 5% of road transport will be powered by biofuels, amounting to at least 20% of the water used for agriculture globally.

3. There are, on average, more than 30 grams of salt dissolved in one litre of sea water worldwide. The actual volume of salt in the water defines the amount of energy required to desalinate it for human use.

4. According to the first report of the 2030 Water Resources Group, increase in water use to 2030 will lead to a gap of 40% of withdrawals for human needs no longer covered by sustainable supply. Today, over-pumping of ground water by the world’s farmers already exceeds natural replenishment by more than 4% of total withdrawals.

5. More than 50% of desalination capacity is in the Middle East, largely in Saudi Arabia, where desalination plants meet over two-thirds of the kingdom’s present drinking water needs.

6. Fewer than ten countries hold 60% of the earth’s available freshwater: Brazil, Russia, China, Canada, Indonesia, the United States, India, Columbia, and the Democratic Republic of Congo

7. Globally, commercial energy consumed for delivering water is more than 26 Quads, 7% of total world consumption. (One Quad is the energy equivalent of 36,000,000 tonnes of coal).

8. According to the World Health Organisation, more than 80 million people worldwide suffer C. trachomatis eye infections and 8 million are blinded as a result of the infection which mostly occurs in overcrowded living conditions with limited access to safe water.

9. 99.7% of all the water on earth is not available for human or animal consumption. Of the remaining 0.3%, much is inaccessible due to unreachable locations and depths.

10. According to some studies (pdf document) (Burneya et al. 2009, Sivanappan 1994, Mozo et al. 2006, Belder et al. 2007), drip irrigation has resulted in yield gains of up to 100%, and water savings of 40-80%.

  1. BADIBANGA MUKUNDAYI narcisse @ Nestle Congo Sprl

    19 Mar 2014 - 19:38 (GMT)

    The issue of water availability around 2030 is more important i found out ,after i ve read some blogs from Mr brabeck that we have much responsability in water management but this subject is not interresting to much people mostly here in africa .
    What i am sure is that as long as the democratic republic of Congo is among the list of the earth s available fresh water ,something must be done here regarding water And the water blog from our chairman is a source of inspiration .

  2. Hammad Hassan @ Nestle S.A. Pakistan Market

    21 Mar 2014 - 06:43 (GMT)

    A brief analysis written by a caring person who think about people of all world. A clear understanding which is sufficient to open our eyes to think & plan for the coming generation. We have to implement Lean Approach regarding water saving, because above description is showing that water is the most precious resource for human in this world. Totally agreed with the highlighted indications on which we must start working. Thanks

  3. Chad Buechel @ Nestle

    22 Mar 2014 - 23:08 (GMT)

    Thank you for sharing. Staggering numbers. With numbers such as this, it is clear why water remains a source of conflict in many countries. Living in a country that has part of this 60%, it is remarkable how sheltered much of the population is to how fragile of a problem water is. Every drop counts. Again, thank you for sharing the clear message.

  4. Juan Garcia @ Global Water Jobs

    25 Mar 2014 - 14:32 (GMT)

    As I have not finished my studies yet, this telling facts are perfect for my water footprint dissertation. Thank you!

  5. Beat Imboden @ Alpiq

    12 Apr 2014 - 19:27 (GMT)

    Hydropower produces 60 % of Swiss electricity production! Hydropower is indisputably the best form of production worldwide. Why: low price, CO2-free, little negative environmental impacts , stored and used flexibly depending on demand . But at the time the hydropower in Europe is extremely strong under pressure. Why? Because since the nuclear accident in Fukushima, the threat of global warming has fallen completely into oblivion due to the CO2 rise! The CO2 price (certificates) is totally in the basement and countries such as Germany and Switzerland subsidize billions of euro wind power and photovoltaics. Means that the market is completely distorted. Meanwhile, more than half of the Swiss hydropower plants are no longer economical. Unbelievable! In a country with so much water and so ideal topology. A typical example is a new hydroelectric power project near the Aletsch Glacier in Valais. For ideological reasons, the project will prevent the federal government and environmental groups, although the project is 99% planned underground and the environmental impacts are minimal proven. And would this project as well as other projects multifunctional added values: power production, storage of drinking water, storage of water for agriculture, flood protection and added value for sustainable tourism. We are committed to making better use of our water! The water is a precious commodity and needs a professional water management.
    Best regards Beat Imboden

  6. Peter Brabeck-Letmathe @ Nestlé

    15 Apr 2014 - 11:12 (GMT)

    Dear Beat, many thanks for an excellent comment. You make a very good point on the multifunctionality of developing hydropower, something I am very much convinced of. Even long before industrialization, hydropower was a source of prosperity here and in many other places. You also rightfully stress the massive market distortions combined with increasing lack of predictability as well as the lack of clear, rational criteria that lead to paralising more and more new initiatives in Switzerland and Europe overall. We have to take views of single-issue groups into account, but as one of several views, as one of several aspects to be considered. Regards, Peter.

  7. David Wadström @ SOLVATTEN

    02 Jun 2014 - 18:18 (GMT)

    I want to take the opportunity to bring attention to the swedish SOLVATTEN, a 10 liter container that effectively addresses water challenges. (safe and warm water) Solvatten AB, was founded 2006 in order to produce, market and sell Solvatten® with the mission to provide the most cost effective and sustainable house hold water solution and to help the greatest number of people get out — and stay out — of poverty.

    We have found that hygiene practice, acceptance and uptake increase when safe, warm water is made available at zero cost. Far to few see realize that link. It is a humanistic approach to a global problem.

    "Overcoming poverty is the right to dignity and a decent life. While poverty persists, there is no true freedom". Nelson Mandela

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