Water and energy

Water and energy are today two interdependent resources that require a key place in the post-2015 agenda.

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

Water and energy are two quite distinct fluids: while energy is consumed and disappears, fresh water follows a permanent cycle and can be reused several times. However, water production and energy production are intimately linked. There is no energy production without water and no clean water without energy.

The energy issue is crucial from a social point of view because it conditions access to health, education and modern forms of communication in the so-called developing countries. It also conditions access to quality water: when energy arrives on a territory, it makes it possible to have access to the quantity of water necessary for human consumption as well as for production activities. Both access to energy and access to water, as engines of activity and generators of wealth, are key economic and political issues in the fight against poverty.

Promoting concerted water and energy management in the so-called developing countries

There are three possible fields of reflection:

* Technical solutions

In order to reduce energy consumption for water production, it is necessary to develop techniques for recycling wastewater; to build treatment plants that are as self-sufficient as possible and to develop new desalination technologies that are less energy consuming and use cogeneration.

To reduce water consumption for energy production, private and public operators must reduce the volumes mobilized by developing processes for recycling production water and treating wastewater discharges. One example is the development of closed-cooled thermoelectric plants that consume less water.

* Local synergies

The issues are local, both in terms of production and distribution. This requires encouraging interactions between water and energy through local actors, industrialists, operators, local authorities or financiers.

In addition to organising the transfer of know-how, local actors must inform civil society and populations about the challenges of resource preservation, but also about the real costs of services.

In addition, equalization systems of all types between all sectors are avenues to be encouraged. In some countries such as Morocco, electricity pays for water. Electricity tariffs, combined in a single contract, pay for water, which is subject to a social tariff that is lower than its production cost.

* Political commitments

The first political commitment is at the national level. There is a real need today to estimate water and energy needs, country by country, by sector and by water or energy use.

Similarly, water and energy must be integrated into multisectoral planning and development policies. In some countries, water and energy institutions or institutional governing bodies are housed under a single ministry.

At the international level, there is a need to support binding legislation on obligations, such as obligations to recycle industrial water, especially oil-produced water, and to tighten discharge standards for polluted water to help preserve water resources.

Finally, it is important that the World Bank and other donors be able to give priority to financing combined water and electricity infrastructure projects. These proposals for financing and cross-contracting should incorporate optimization and training objectives.

Recommendations from (re)sources

(Re)sources anticipated the current debate on the link between water and energy since this topic had been the subject of its first symposium in 2004. (Re)sources maintains that :

* Access to energy is a prerequisite for access to drinking water.

* The right to energy must be recognized at the same level as the right to water and sanitation as a fundamental human right.

* There is a state of interdependence between water and energy which refers to human rights and which must lead to building a common governance (local and international level) of these essential services.

* Saving these two resources and promoting their concerted management is essential for a sustainable and affordable supply.

* Priority should be given to the financing of combined water and electricity infrastructure projects (to reduce energy consumption for water production and to reduce the use and consumption of water for energy), the development of synergies (e.g. tariff equalisation systems between water and energy) and the adoption of more binding legislation on discharge standards.

* Local synergies must be established between the players involved (industrialists, operators, local authorities, financiers) who must work more closely together to find levers for action on the ground.