This year World Water Day takes on the theme of water and energy.
These two areas are inextricably linked: on one hand, water is used in hydroelectric production and is required for cooling thermal power plants, extracting and refining oil and gas products, as well as for the production of certain fuels such as biomass, ethanol or hydrogen.
Globally, the energy sector is the second largest user of water after agriculture.
On the other hand, energy is essential to the whole cycle of human water use: extraction by pumping, transport, treatment, desalination, various uses, in particular for irrigation or industry, and waste water treatment.
Why is World Water Day 2014 focusing on water and energy?
Simultaneously meeting the rising global demand for both energy and water is a challenge, but one that is not often highlighted. Under the triple effect of demographics – 9 billion people are expected by 2050 according to the UN (2012) – economic development and changing patterns of consumption, global demand for energy is expected to double or even triple by 2050. Concurrently, global water requirements for human activities are expected to increase 40% by 2030 and 70% in the case of drinking water.
Ensuring the right of access to essential services
It should not be forgotten that some 1.3 billion people have no access to electricity today, that every day between 2 and 4 billion people – half of the world’s population – still consume contaminated, dangerous and even deadly water every day (UNSGAB, 2013) and that over 2.5 billion people do not have access to sanitation (JMP, 2013).
However, access to water is often dependent on access to energy for collecting, treating and distributing it to the user. Lack of access to energy sources is therefore a major obstacle to providing a water supply to isolated or off-grid populations.
Meeting the increasing demand for energy and water within a sustainable development approach
Sustainable development calls for environmental friendly energy sources and biodiversity, as well as water and sanitation services that consume less energy. Energy efficiency and sustainable water management will have a positive impact on other sectors, such as agriculture, biodiversity, risk management, sustainable cities, etc.
Dealing with the consequences of global changes and climate change
Different regions in the world suffer the effects of climate change differently, but they all have some common characteristics, such as water scarcity, lack of access to clean energy sources and vulnerability to climate change (IDRC, 2012). They are also increasingly subject to constraints caused by anthropogenic factors (land pressure, population growth, etc).
In many regions, climate change will have repercussions on the energy sector: major risks to infrastructure related to extreme climate-relative events, as forcefully demonstrated by the Fukushima disaster, changes in demand for heating and air conditioning, effects of sea levels on coastal infrastructure (IEA, 2013), etc.
French stakeholders mobilized for improved international integration of water and energy policies
The French stakeholders involved in the French Water Partnership are working together on several actions to convince the international community to:
- include among its priorities for the next fifteen years (the UN post-2015 Development Agenda) a “water” Goal and an “energy” Goal that are consistent with one another and which will take the respective issues in these two sectors into consideration
- bring its water and energy sector policies into line
- put specialized bodies in place in each water catchment area or sub-catchment area involving all the stakeholders and incorporating domestic, environmental, energy and food issues
- develop a framework for analyzing the physical and economic interactions between water and energy, supported by scientific approaches
- define and implement joint water and energy sector strategies to adapt and to mitigate climate change.