Clean Power

Published on December 21st, 2012 | by Zachary Shahan


Our Water Crisis, And Important Solutions

December 21st, 2012 by  

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.”

Additionally, here are a couple water facts from the Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week post I wrote on Wednesday (when I was announcing the Water–Energy Nexus blogging contest):

  • 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.

Take Action

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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About the Author

is tryin' to help society help itself (and other species) with the power of the typed word. He spends most of his time here on CleanTechnica as its director and chief editor, but he's also the president of Important Media and the director/founder of EV Obsession, Solar Love, and Bikocity. Zach is recognized globally as a solar energy, electric car, and energy storage expert. Zach has long-term investments in TSLA, FSLR, SPWR, SEDG, & ABB — after years of covering solar and EVs, he simply has a lot of faith in these particular companies and feels like they are good cleantech companies to invest in.

  • JMin2020

    Thanks for the post Zach. Yep we’re shory on water in a lot of places. The oldest and cleanest form of Clean Energy power ptoduction is feeling the pinch as well Hydeo Electric facilities rypicaly have relied up[on running rivers with a dam assembly. The exyteme deought ias raised major concerns in the Desert Southwest. Coal Fired Facilities as well as Hucliar Facilities are in a pinch as they use water for cooling; and lots of it. They also need ro clean it up and cool it down for re entry into the ecosystem. They don’t like that very much; but I do. We need some VERY EFFICIENT desalination technology to continue ro meet our needs. We also need to close loop our city water sullpies ro mitigate rising sea levels caused by transfer of underground water to the seas via oue waste treatment systems discharge into rivers that duscharge into the seas all of rhe wateer we pump up and apply for home use ; industrial and aggricultural purposes.

  • dynamo.joe

    I’m not sure this makes sense. The energy indust doesn’t destroy water. What happens to all this water they “use”? It goes right back into the river or ocean or whatever source they are using. It goes back a few degrees warmer than when it came in and that may have an impact on local flora and fauna, but the water is still available for the next town down the river or what have you.
    I think you would have been better off working the opposite angle: water restrictions will limit our ability to run conventional power plants and so we should be developing low water use alternatives, such as PV and wind.

    • As the rivers get warmer, coal, gas, nuclear have to turn off. This has been happening more and more in the USA, you are only allow to make the river so hot. Even if you use a cooling pond you have limits. Last year even after getting a EPA exception to raise temp to 110 in its pond a plant out west closed. Plus not all water goes back into the river, and yes it is in the atm, but if you a down stream that water is gone. So in areas with a water shortage, if you are down river the water never gets to you. Have you never hear of water wars?

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