The water-energy nexus

Without electricity, there is no access to water in cities, and even in most villages

Updated - March 25, 2016 04:16 pm IST

Published - March 25, 2016 03:13 pm IST

HYDERABAD,TELANGANA,17/12/2015: Delegates admiring the Solar energy equipment  at Renewable Energy Trade show at Hitex in Hyderabad on Thursday.

 --Photo: Nagara Gopal

HYDERABAD,TELANGANA,17/12/2015: Delegates admiring the Solar energy equipment at Renewable Energy Trade show at Hitex in Hyderabad on Thursday.

 --Photo: Nagara Gopal

That water and energy are connected should be intuitively known to us yet it escapes us at crucial times. Consider the thermal power plant at Raichur. It is failing to operate because there is no water in Krishna river. Now sandbags are being thrown across to ensure that the meagre flows can be directed so that power-starved Karnataka will get its electricity. In none of the awards made by various tribunals for Karnataka is there a demand for or an allocation to, for generation of power. The State has to scramble from within its overall allocation to find waters for electric plants. This is mind boggling.

On the other hand, since the State is predominantly groundwater-based in its supply of water for drinking, for irrigation and for even urban use, without electricity there is no access to water. Food production and the livelihoods of millions of farmers is completely based on the availability of water and energy, mainly as electricity.

In urban areas too we pay for our water through our electricity bills too and are unaware of it. Even at a household level, water has to be pumped from sumps to overhead tanks for it to be available in taps.

Cities have had to fight for dedicated power lines for water supply and distribution, and sewage treatment plants will become dysfunctional if there be no electricity and hence too need dedicated ‘no-power-cut lines’.

In the rural areas, Gujarat has done excellent management by delinking agricultural electricity lines from the regular village lines. This means that the drinking water sources as well as the light sources in villages can be ensured good quality, reliable electricity. Something that Karnataka must emulate.

In your own house or apartment, make sure that the pumping system from your borewell and sump to the overhead tank is optimised to ensure that water is pumped up quickly.

All forms of conventional energy — thermal, hydro-electric, nuclear — requires large volumes of water. Solar energy requires the least, at least in the operations part of it.

A solar-electricity-based system makes absolute sense not only ensuring that water is available for the household but reducing the load on thermal and hydro-electric plants, thus saving water.

By decoupling water and electricity it is possible to move towards more sustainable systems of water use. We need to focus our energies on that and that would be water wisdom.

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