The two-way water-energy nexus raises several key issues that impact water quality and water quantity aspects, particularly:
- making water available to secure energy supply in a water scarcity context;
- making energy available for the supply of water and sanitation while optimising energy efficiency and the use of renewable energies.
As global forecasts indicate growing energy demand over the next several decades, it is also important to consider the potential for a proportional increase in water needs for energy production as well. Moreover, it is becoming more widely recognized that there also exists a water-energy-agriculture nexus in view of the major contribution of water and energy to the agricultural sector and of agriculture increasingly becoming a provider of energy sources, through biofuels for example.
Social issues are also crucial as access to energy and water are key aspects of poverty alleviation policies. Biodiversity related considerations are also significant because fresh and ocean waters are impacted by human activities which can lead to environmental problems.
All these issues have been clearly identified as major factors of development at the 2002 World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg, in the subsequent work of United Nations Commission on Sustainable Development (UNCSD) and they are part of the Millennium Development Goals (MDG’s)
For all these reasons, the interaction between water and energy is a very important consideration. While the question of water stewardship, and more generally water and sanitation have been discussed in many forums, including UNCSD, Stockholm Water Week and the World Water Forums, the importance of water for energy production has not always been fully recognized. Consequently, water management and policies should fully integrate this dimension, taking into account its specific constraints.
Key Policy recommendations based on best practices
Governments should shape their policies to focus on:
- Not only scarcity of water resources but also on constraints to water usage in regards to its availability, both in terms of water flow and water quality;
- As water is a resource to be shared between various users all stakeholders should be involved in the policy-making process;
- Organising water management for energy purposes within a watershed/catchment scale;
- Technological developments that may bring new solutions to problems raised by impacts and constraints in the management of water and energy.