Water as important as energy in climate debate
carbon, solar, recycle, climate, renewable
The European Environment Agency (EEA) has said that water efficiency is as critical as energy efficiency and energy performance of buildings in the current climate change debate.

There is increasing concern that the impact of a growing population, increasing agricultural demand, combined with climate change, could result in permanent drought in many regions.

At a conference on water issues, the EEA’s executive director expressed her surprised that existing technologies that could help manage and improve the water environment had not made it through into urban planning circles.

While historically, the focus on water has been on improving it’s quality, rather than concern about its scarcity, climate change has the potential to change this drastically. Questions of mitigation and adaptation cannot be addressed without addressing issues surrounding water and land.

 While the EEA plans to launch water accounts by the end of 2009, requiring Member States to draft river basin management plans, there has been little done to address issues of water wastage.

Water is critical to humanity, both for drinking and growing food. If the temperature rises around 3 degrees celsius, we could see the glaciers of the Himalayas, Andes, Rockies and Alps begin to melt, affecting the flow of clean water to land all over the world.

In Australia, the Murray Riven basin is under massive stress as overuse and drought strain its capacity, and residents of Adelaide could be reliant on bottled water by next week.  Australia's worst drought in a century has lasted over 10 years in places, and many cities have had to restrict water use.

The Chinese water minister, Chen Lei, recently told a water conference that two-thirds of Chinese cities now face serious shortages due to rapid industrialisation and climate change. By 2015, he warned, water efficiency would have to be increased by 30%.

According to a UN environment programme report, perennial drought conditions are developing in south-eastern Australia and south-western North America and that water scarcity could increase in southern and northern Africa, the Mediterranean, much of the Middle East, a broad band in central Asia and the Indian subcontinent.

The implications of water scarcity are immense. Access to water supplies is believed to have provided a spark for the outbreak of civil war in 2003, as droughts affected grazing lands and people moved from their traditional homes and came into conflict with those whose lands they entered. The tragedy, which has resulted in the deaths of hundreds of thousands has also resulted in the destruction of foodstocks, seeds, livestock, wells and irrigation systems, making the region basically uninhabitable, and with refugees and displaced persons running into the millions.

The key issue in the current approach to the mitigation of climate change is how best to alter our energy environment in order to avoid the use of fossil fuels. Yet the enormous water footprint relating to energy production is being ignored and is becoming an increasingly critical consideration. When weighing nuclear against coal, the carbon benefit is clear, yet nuclear power requires vast amounts of water for cooling. New energy technologies – from advanced methods of extracting fossil fuels to low-carbon renewable energy – can exacerbate water worries, creating ugly trade-offs between carbon and water. As water stresses, multiply energy technologies’ water intensity will often play as great a role as their carbon footprint in determining the future makeup of the global energy mix.

There are incredibly complicated problems to resolve: what do we do about transboundary water; how do we quantify the growing risk of water-related international tensions; how do we best understand, measure and engage with water resources through corporate water footprinting; how do we embed water efficiency at a cultural level? While quite what we do about this is not yet clear, as the economic/environmental equation has not really been fully clarified for water, it is clear that it’s time that we embedd water management in any action on climate change

Posted via email from Conquering Carbon


Log in