We are living in an age where without electricity, access to water becomes impossible. S. Vishwanath takes a look at the issues that need to be sorted out
Consider an average middle class house in a city. The whine of the pump pushing water from a sump to the overhead tank is heard every day. Energy is needed to lift water to be fed by gravity for daily consumption. It is so for the ubiquitous borewell too. Electricity and in some cases diesel is needed in large measure to lift water for use.
Without electricity access to water becomes impossible. Even household appliances such as the washing machine, the dishwasher and the increasingly ubiquitous R.O. filters in homes require electricity for operation. We pay more for water through our electricity bills than through our water bills, without being aware of it. This includes many municipalities and Gram Panchayats who also do not realise the true energy consumption in pumping water. About eight per cent of global energy produces is used to treat, transmit or pump water and treat wastewater.
For cities itself, the water footprint is growing and so is the energy footprint. The city of Bangalore, for example, gets its water from a distance of nearly 100 km and every drop of water is to be lifted to a height of 300 metres. It is estimated that it takes nearly 1.88 units of electricity to get 1,000 litres of water to the city. Similarly Chennai pumps part of its water from the Veeranam lake, a distance of more than 200 km. It also has a desalination plant which requires energy to separate the salt from the water.
To produce energy too vast amounts of water are required. Hydro-electric projects require dams to store water and alter river flows. Run-of-the-river projects too require diversion structures which leave large stretches of rivers barren and exposed. Nuclear energy, thermal energy and even solar energy plants require large volumes of water. Wind energy is the only form of energy that requires no water in its operations.
The objective of the World Water Day as the website http://www.unwater.org/worldwaterday/about-world-water-day/world-water-day-2014-water-and-energy/en/ states, is
* Raise awareness of the inter-linkages between water and energy
* Contribute to a policy dialogue that focuses on the broad range of issues related to the nexus of water and energy
* Demonstrate, through case studies, to decision makers in the energy sector and the water domain that integrated approaches and solutions to water-energy issues can achieve greater economic and social impacts
* Identify policy formulation and capacity development issues in which the U.N. system, in particular U.N.-Water and U.N.-Energy, can offer significant contributions
* Identify key stakeholders in the water-energy nexus and actively engage them in further developing the water-energy linkages
* Contribute as relevant to the post-2015 discussions in relation to the water-energy nexus.
At the household level reducing water consumption to the optimum is one step one can take. Getting an energy audit done would be essential for institutions.
Replacing old pumpsets with newer, energy efficient ones would reduce not only energy consumption but also electricity bills. Most replacements would pay back for themselves within years, if not months.
It is time to understand the role of water and energy in our lives as both come critically in short supply. World Water Day provides such an opportunity.
Hopefully you will be part of the celebration and the understanding. That would be water wisdom.