Water availability is an extremely critical and underacknowledged issue. I would actually consider it the most underrated issue of the day. The effects of global warming and climate change will be broad and devastating, but one of the largest of those will be threats to our water supplies. Furthermore, other factors also threaten our water supplies and have for a long time, such as our current agricultural practices, population growth, and how we create electricity. Our top focus on CleanTechnica is electricity production, so I’m going to explore some key aspects of the electricity–water link below. But first, here are some water facts from sister site Eat Drink Better that are really worth contemplating:
- About 60% of your body weight is water, and about 75% of your muscles are water.
- The current water and sanitation crisis kills more people through disease than wars kill through guns.
- “At any given time, half of the world’s hospital beds are occupied by patients suffering from diseases associated with lack of access to safe drinking water, inadequate sanitation and poor hygiene.”
- 27% of the urban population in the developing world does not have in-home piped water.
- 99.7% of all the water on earth is not available for human or animal consumption.
Between our huge need for water and its increasingly limited availability, we need to do all we can to conserve this precious resource.
Electricity & Water
We do have some good news, though: we know that solar PV and wind power use tens or hundreds of times less water (relative to the power they produce) than fossil fuels or nuclear power. Based on data from a “water and energy facts” article I wrote over two years ago, here’s how top electricity sources compare on water efficiency:
The American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) notes that wind power “uses less than 1/600 as much water per unit of electricity produced as does nuclear, and approximately 1/500 as much as coal.”
So, beyond their importance for fighting global warming, wind and solar energy are also important for water conservation. Additionally, as more areas get hit by crippling droughts, solar PV and wind will offer a more secure electricity supply.
To fight droughts from global warming, to improve electricity security in the face of water shortage, and to lessen the water crisis, we should all take action.
Individuals can go solar, or can invest in community solar or wind projects. There are many options these days for individuals to use or support renewable energy. From solar leasing, to crowdfunding solar or wind projects, to buying solar power systems outright for their homes.
Businesses can do the same. An increasing number of large businesses are investing in or buying electricity from solar or wind projects. This helps to address climate and water issues, but it’s also an investment that saves them money in the long term.
Governments, of course, can facilitate the development of more solar and wind power through a large variety of policies and programs. To date, the most effective policy seems to be feed-in tariffs; but renewable energy standards, investment and production tax credits, and carbon pricing are other key options that have successfully brought down the price of renewable technology and stimulated growth.
Advancing renewable energy is critical for our future. Among its many other benefits, it is a top solution to our growing water crisis.
Note: this is my entry into the Masdar Water–Energy Blogging Contest.
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