The Water and (Renewable) Energy Nexus

With the surging interest in renewable sources of energy due to concern about climate change, the issue of water supply is also coming to the fore. For many renewable energy projects, water is a crucial component. But water scarcity in many areas is raising questions about the viability and wisdom of some of these initiatives. Consider this New York Times report on how water shortages in the western United States have impinged on solar power projects in the region.


5 Responses to “The Water and (Renewable) Energy Nexus”

  1. 1 Wan Pui Yin (Evelyn) 02/10/2009 at 2:11 am

    The interdependence between water and energy also arises in terms of the treatment of water sources and possibly in using desalination technology to solve the freshwater scarcity problem. In any case, we are using one scarce source (water)to create/substitute another scarce source (fossil fuels) and vice versa.

    What must be done then is to re-evaluate the current projects on renewable energy sources and to enhance collaboration among the stakeholders to create a truly sustainable energy source that takes water conservation into account. Water planning and energy planning can no longer be done separately. (And on a related note, I wonder if this has even become an issue of consideration yet for Chinese authorities?)

    Anyway, apart from the current campaigns to promote effective energy consumption and reduction of carbon footprints, much has be done to also start water conservation at the level of individuals. With global warming being the most well-known issue, it is a comfort to know that steps in reducing global warming can also help alleviate the water stress issue.

  2. 2 Chow Chui Yin Kuma 05/10/2009 at 6:42 pm

    So what I read in this article is the main difference between water usage(wastage) in adopting solar thermal technology and photovoltaic technology. The latter uses far much less water in production of renewable energy. I found the key problem seems to be the government’s attitudes and legislation who can really help push the solar power companies to adopt a cleaner, water-friendly technology.

    It’s also interesting to note that the cost of using photovoltaic technology has been driven down and China, our country, is to own the largest photovoltaic powe plant in the world by 2019. It is to be built in inner Mongolia and will generate 2 gigawatt enough to support 3 million Chinese homes. (source:

    What is even more interesting is that China is building such solar energy farm with an American company. The deal is that China can attain the technology associated with solar power farm and upgrade itself from just ‘the manufactures’ of solar power plants’ equipments.

    If China can do it the way the conserves water better, so should Amercia be able to do that. It seems to me that China’s policy to offer tarrif incentives and financial boost to local solar power technology companies while keeping in mind not to be afriad to try cleaner and more advanced technology is the way to follow.

  3. 3 James H.T. Lam 07/10/2009 at 7:21 pm

    After hearing today’s lecture delivered by James Workman, I am glad that he offered an innovative solution to our water crisis today. Yet,I still have doubts on his solution. As I have asked during the lecture, it is hard to determine the share/ entitlement one should get for water, and it is also difficult to think about who should determine such question. Certainly some people would really have a genuine need to demand more water than other, though he/she might not be the affluent class, and the system proposed by James would indeed severely affect them. If we are going to assess each different needs in order to ration a certain entitlement of water share to each individual, then the whole process would be very time consuming and ultra high costs would be involved. Another point might be that due to political pressure everyone was entitled to a very lavish quota, then the whole exrcise becomes pointless.

    I would rather humbly suggest that it should be governments of different nations to step up more efforts in technology helping us to conserve the water. I would like to praise the Japanese as really brilliant on this side, indeed nearly every toilets in metros (e.g. Tokyo) of Japan have electrical sensor water tap, and many toilets in Japan have the flushing water coming from water used to wash the hands of the user. The recycling concepts and technologies in Japan are just brilliant, and indeed Japanese is the cutting edge of all these and put a lot of initiatives and efforts in. (Basically we can see the Japanese being the pioneer in petrol-electric hybrid/ electric powered cars) What I am advocating is for government of different nations to put more effort in the research of sustainable energy / resources, which of course includes water. (Chinese government is recently working on Sustainable Resources/ Energy development as well)

  4. 4 Kei Kit Lung 09/10/2009 at 2:56 pm

    Water is supposed to be a renewable resource, for it is naturally replenished. But this reusable energy now translates into the water crisis problem. Why is that?

    As mentioned in the class, various factors contribute to the problem: rising demand, climate change, lack of awareness etc. But I see the problem not only about quantity but also quality of water. Some places are rich in water supply but because of usable and polluted rivers, water crisis still arises. Most of the world’s water supplies are seriously polluted by sewage, chemical discharges, domestic wastes, mine and agricultural runoff and untreated industrial pollutants. Therefore, I think part of the solutions still lies in water treatment and conservation.

    And I want to point out that water stress is not merely about the water deficiency, but it is closely intertwined to several humanity issues (that we come across in this course). The more apparent ones include malnutrition, water-borne diseases, famine if there is lower irrigation water and thus less agricultural yield, prolonged drought, expanding desertification, wars if there is a fight for water sources etc. It may also bring in some unpredicted consequences. For example, the over exploitation of underground water may harm the natural environment and results in land subsidence.

  5. 5 fong chung lauren 10/10/2009 at 11:02 pm

    Quite agree with James Lam (the 3rd comment). I do find Mr. James Workman’s model innovative. But I share the similar concern with Lam. Firstly, who has the right to decide the allocation of resources. Secondly, and most importantly, (correct me if I’m wrong) it seems the rich can still have the luxury to buy water from the poor, and it will end up, the rich still use more at a relatively low cost, and water saving will not be encouraged.

    And I also agree with Lam that the encouragement for research and development on water conservation system would be a good start. However, it should not shift the attention away from problems of privatization of public natural resources, such as water. The film For the Love of Water (very nice documentary, the “$4.75 French tag water” is hilarious) shows the problems that water systems in developing countries are forced to hand over to the 3 powerful European multinational corporate giants. And Bolivia serves as a good example to show how problematic it is after the World Bank force her to privatize water system in 1997.

    Awareness is important. The poor might not have concept of the importance of clean water. Yet how many of us, the educated, in the developed country knows every year there are more than 2 million people, mostly children, died of water related problems. When we travel to developing countries, we do not trust their drinking water, instead we buy coke and bottled water, we maintain minimal contacts with the locals as we feel they are not very hygienic. But how many of us realize the reason that they do not have enough money for water is in fact due to globalization, privatization and the unfaire allocation of public resources? When will we start to reflect on our consumption behaviour when everything is too cheap that we take them for granted?

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