Interactive Map Shows Worldwide Water and Energy Tug-o-War

water energy conflict photo

Image via IEEE

The water crisis and energy crisis are not necessarily exclusive issues around the globe. The generation of electricity is hugely dependent upon water, which is a quickly disappearing resource. Power plants heavily rely on water to create the power we consume, and the power we also use to create more clean drinking water. So, often the crunch for water and energy come into conflict. With a new interactive map, IEEE has highlighted areas across the globe where water and energy are posing problems, and highlights solutions being explored to alleviate them.

IEEE map, "Each location's marker reflects a prognosis based on the riskiness of the project, the likelihood of success, and the consequences of failure. A nation's ability to deal with the problem is influenced by the following four metrics: Renewable fresh water per capita; total primary energy per capita, population access to clean water; population access to energy."

water meets watts image

The map illustrates that water and energy often go hand-in-hand, and can often be a serious problem even for areas we'd think would be able to overcome the conflict.

For example, the prognosis for water and energy in Nevada is "Grim," due to the inability to get new low-pressure turbines installed to counter the effect of shrinking water levels in Lake Mead. This major source of electricity may shut down as early as 2013 because of its reliance on a water source that is disappearing.

We rarely think about our dependence upon water for electricity, but power plants and water are intricately linked. Without smarter use of water within power generation, we might find ourselves without both.

IEEE writes, "In almost every type of power plant, water is a major hidden cost. Water cools the blistering steam of thermal plants and allows hydroelectric turbines to churn. It brings biofuel crops from the ground and geothermal energy from the depths of the Earth. Our power sources would be impotent without water.

"Don't believe us? Plug your iPhone into the wall, and about half a liter of water must flow through kilometers of pipes, pumps, and the heat exchangers of a power plant. That's a lot of money and machinery just so you can get a 6-watt-hour charge for your flashy little phone. Now, add up all the half-liters of water used to generate the roughly 17 billion megawatt-hours that the world will burn through this year. Trust us, it's a lot of water. In the United States alone, on just one average day, more than 500 billion liters of freshwater travel through the country's power plants--more than twice what flows through the Nile."

Those are some startling statistics. IEEE writes about the impending clash between water and electricity, and this month's magazine issue is dedicated to the water crisis.

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