Water and energy

Water and energy are two closely intertwined resources that must be given a prominent place in the post-2015 agenda.

Water and energy: the two fluids that condition access to development in most vulnerable countries

Water and energy are two clearly distinctive fluids: energy gets consumed and disappears while fresh water follows a continuous cycle and is susceptible to being reused multiple times. Nonetheless, water production and energy production are actually closely intertwined. There is no energy production without water and conversely, no clean water without energy.

The energy challenge is crucial from a social perspective as it ends up conditioning access to health, education and even modern forms of communication in developing countries. It also conditions access to quality water: when energy reaches a certain area, it enables access to water in adequate quantities for human consumption as well as production activities. Access to energy just like access to water both constitute, in their quality of engines that generate activities and wealth, two of the most essential economic and political challenges in fighting poverty.


Promoting a joint management for water and energy in developing countries

Three main reflection areas can be considered:

  • Technical solutions

In order to reduce the amounts of energy used for water production, used water recycling techniques must be developed. More wastewater treatment plants – as autonomous as possible – must be built and new desalination technologies must be developed that would need less energy and use cogeneration.

In order to reduce the volumes of water used for energy production, private and public operators alike need to reduce the quantities mobilized by developing not only recycling processes for the volumes of water allocated to production but also the treatment of wastewater discharge. For instance, the development of thermoelectric power plants with closed cooling system requires far less water and is a step in the right direction.

  • Local synergies

Most challenges related to either production or distribution are raised at the local level. This means interactions between water and energy should be promoted by local actors, industries, operators, local authorities or investors.

Beyond the sole organization of knowledge transfers, local actors also have the responsibility to provide civil society and local populations information about resource conservation challenges on the one hand, and about the actual cost of services on the other hand.

Moreover, any cross-sectoral equalization scheme initiative should be encouraged. In some countries such as Morocco, electricity finances water. Electricity tariffs are combined in a single contract and pay for the water bill, which is subject to a social tariff scheme, and is priced below its production cost.

  • Political commitments

The very first political commitment stands at the national level. There currently is a real need for a country-specific estimation of water and energy needs depending on sectors and usage of water or energy.

Likewise, water and energy must be integrated into multi-sectoral land use planning policies. In some countries, water and energy institutions or governing bodies belong to a single Ministry.

At the international level, a binding legal framework must be supported to deal with duties such as industrial wastewater recycling obligation, especially produced water from oil and gas. More stringent norms on polluted water release must also be enforced to contribute to water resources conservation.

Finally, the World Bank and other international institutions and donors need to have the capacity to give priority to multi-sectoral water and electricity infrastructure projects. These cross-sectoral funding and contract propositions should involve optimization and training targets.

Read more – Energy and Water

To go further, please refer to the summary of our seminar "Water and Energy, a tensed couple


(Re)sources' recommendations

(Re)sources anticipated the current debate on the interconnection between water and energy as this issue was already the topic of our first seminar in 2004. (Re)sources contends that:

  • Access to energy is a prerequisite for water access
  • The right to energy must be recognized at the same level as water and sanitation as a basic human right
  • There exists a strong link of interdependence between water and energy that is linked to fundamental human rights and must lead to a joint governance (at both local and international levels) of these essential services.
  • Saving these resources and promoting their joint management is essential to ensure their sustainable and affordable provision.
  • Priority must be granted to funding multi-sectoral water and electricity infrastructure projects (in order to decrease energy consumption for water production and conversely to decrease use and consumption of water for energy), to establishing synergies (e.g. tariff equalization between water and energy) and adopting a more stringent and binding legal framework for wastewater discharge norms.
  • Local synergies must be created between all stakeholders (industries, operators, local authorities, investors) who have to collaborate more closely to leverage solutions on the field.

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Water and energy