Dependency on fossil fuel-based energy will lead to a global water crisis by 2040 unless power generators increase efficiency and the use of renewables, according to two new reports by CNA Corporation, a nonprofit research and analysis organization.
The research, which explores the links between electric power generation and water use, also offers recommendations for strategic steps that can be taken to reduce power companies’ heavy dependence on water, which can enhance the reliability of power generation.
In addition to addressing the water-use concerns, the recommendations, if implemented, would also yield other benefits, most notably reduced carbon dioxide emissions as well as cuts in emissions of such pollutants as sulfur dioxide, nitrous oxides, particulate matter and mercury.
The first report, Capturing Synergies Between Water Conservation and Carbon Dioxide Emissions in the Power Sector, focuses on strategy recommendations based on analyses of water use and CO2 emissions in four case studies, which are detailed in the second report, A Clash of Competing Necessities: Water Adequacy and Electric Reliability in China, India, France, and Texas.
“It’s a very important issue,” said lead study author Paul Faeth, director of Energy, Water & Climate at CNA Corporation. "Water used to cool power plants is the largest source of water withdrawals in the United States and France, and a large source in China and India. The recommendations in these reports can serve as a starting point for leaders in these countries, and for leaders around the world, to take the steps needed to ensure the reliability of current generating plants and begin planning for how to meet future demands for electric power.”
Based on analyses of the case studies, the CNA reports offer five strategic recommendations for addressing the looming problem of potential water shortages and power generation:
- Promote energy efficiency and demand-side management
- Deploy renewable energy technologies that do not require cooling
- Avoid building new freshwater-cooled thermoelectric power plants in water-stressed regions
- mprove monitoring, data collection and analysis for policy, planning and permitting
- Increase R&D support for advanced power-sector technologies that reduce water use and provide other co-benefits.
More and more businesses are recognizing and planning for the impending water crisis. A recent national poll by the American Sustainable Business Council found that most small business owners favor federal protection of clean water and agree it is necessary for a healthy economy and job creation.
In June, the EPA released the Clean Power Plan proposal, which for the first time cuts carbon pollution from existing power plants. The proposal aims to protect public health, move the US toward a cleaner environment and fight climate change, while supplying Americans with reliable and affordable power.