Link energy / water

The right to water is a theme that (Re)sources has carried and defended since 2005, as a founding right of human development.

Water production and energy production are closely linked.

In many parts of the world, water consumption exceeds the capacity of resources to regenerate. It is often necessary to draw water from deeper wells, desalinate seawater, recycle wastewater or consider inter-basin transfers, all of which generate higher energy demands. At the same time, reducing energy consumption has become a priority .

In addition, continuity of energy supply is very important for water production. In Niger, 70% of drinking water production interruptions are linked to power cuts. In Saana, Yemen, the city's water services are struggling to supply the inhabitants because the aquifer is being depleted. The solution would be to desalinate seawater, but since the city is 2,400 m above sea level, energy costs for pumping it would be added to the desalination costs. An unmanageable situation in a country that does not have the necessary energy capacity.

Halfway between industrial and commercial activity and the satisfaction of social needs, energy requires a special approach. Access to it must be integrated as an essential element of development and must not only be a matter of charity or solidarity, but must also break the vicious circle of poverty.

Availability and access to electricity is therefore a key element in the fight against poverty. In terms of social and political recognition, having access to water and electricity when living in an informal or illegal neighbourhood often means moving from pariah status to that of a citizen.

The Middle East - North Africa region is one of the most concerned by the links between water and energy.

In these regions, the driest in the world, water is a scarce commodity and is subject to competition between different sectors, domestic, industrial and agricultural. Overexploitation has depleted aquifers and reduced the amount of reliable and cheaper water resources. A large number of Arab countries are now forced to resort to the desalination process: the North Africa-Middle East region thus has more than 60% of the desalination units in the world, for 5% of the world population. The operation of these units increases the demand for energy.

Moreover, agriculture is the most water-consuming sector with more than 80% of the resources devoted to irrigation. In these oil-rich regions, the oil industry has a significant impact on water consumption, especially production and injection water. A refinery consumes as much water as it processes crude oil, with wide disparities depending on local regulatory constraints: from 3 to 5 barrels of water are needed to produce and refine a barrel (159 litres) of oil.

A case study carried out by Saudi Aramco shows that implementing water conservation, reuse and reclamation measures in the natural gas and crude oil sectors could save up to 31% of Saudi Arabia's total industrial water demand. In Oman, the company Petroleum Development already reuses a large proportion of the water produced with oil.

The food sector, a major energy consumer

The food sector accounts for about 30% of global energy consumption, and produces more than 20% of global greenhouse gas emissions, according to the "Energy-Smart" Food for People and Climate report published at the end of November 2011 by the FAO in the context of the United Nations Climate Change Conference.

Direct energy use on farms amounts to about 6 exa-joules per year (slightly more than half of which is in OECD countries), excluding human labour and animal traction. The energy is used there in particular for pumping water. Measures that can be taken to save water and energy include the use of more fuel-efficient engines, irrigation monitoring and targeted water distribution, FAO said.

Recommendations from (re)sources

  • Access to energy is a prerequisite for access to drinking water. Without energy, there is no water and no development, be it economic, social or environmental.
  • There is a state of interdependence between water and energy which refers to human rights and which must lead to the construction of a common governance (local and international level) of these essential services.