World headed for water crises by 2040

Two studies suggest immediate change in the water use by power sector to avoid global drought

By Rajit Sengupta
Published: Thursday 31 July 2014


The world will face “insurmountable water crises” by 2040 if it does not move away from water-intensive power production. Two new studies released this week predict the world will have to choose between drinking water and energy demand in the next three decades.

The two studies—“Capturing Synergies Between Water Conservation and Carbon Dioxide Emissions in the Power Sector” and “A Clash of Competing Necessities”—have been published by researchers from Denmark’s Aarhus University, Vermont Law School and the CNA Corporation, a non-profit research and analysis organisation.

“It’s a very important issue. Water used to cool power plants is the largest source of water withdrawals in the United States,” says lead study author Paul Faeth, Director of Energy, Water, & Climate at CNA Corporation in a press release on the two new reports. “The recommendations in these reports can serve as a starting point for leaders in these countries, and for leaders around the world, to take the steps needed to ensure the reliability of current generating plants and begin planning for how to meet future demands for electric power,” says Faeth. 

The reports suggest there has been a three-fold population increase in the past century and a six-fold increase in water consumption globally. If trends in population and energy use continue, it could leave a 40 per cent gap between water supply and demand by the year 2030, the reports say.

The reports says nuclear power and coal—the most “thirsty” power sources—should be eventually replaced with more efficient methods, especially renewable sources like wind and solar.

'India will be waterless'
The two studies point out that India, along with China, France and the US, will have be no drinking water by 2040 if consumption of water continues at the current pace. Even a recent UN report on water conservation suggested acute water shortage in India. The report predicts that by 2025, nearly 3.4 billion people will be living in “water-scarce” countries and the situation would become grim in the next 25 years. The report adds that due to its unique geographical position, India will face the brunt of the crisis and would be at the centre of this conflict.


Subscribe to Daily Newsletter :
Related Stories

Comments are moderated and will be published only after the site moderator’s approval. Please use a genuine email ID and provide your name. Selected comments may also be used in the ‘Letters’ section of the Down To Earth print edition.