Major investment is flocking to the world’s water resources, with tycoons referring to water as the new oil. Originally a clean water discussion, water for energy production is beginning to receive main-stream attention.
While the energy side often receives much of the publicity, individuals and business are becoming aware of the link to water. Most people understand that it takes energy to produce water and that water can produce energy (hydroelectric power); however, the complexity of the relationship can be seen in just about every aspect of our society.
• Water and energy are essential to every aspect of life: social equity, ecosystem integrity, economic and business sustainability.
• Water is used to generate energy; energy is used to provide water.
• Water and energy are used to produce crops; crops can in turn be used to generate energy through biofuels.
Recent growth in eco awareness has accelerated research to expand within technical circles towards framing the water and energy related issues and searching for solutions. A report by the World Business Council for Sustainable Development discusses the complexities and interrelationships between water, energy and climate change.
The report comments: “If we truly want to find sustainable solutions, we must ensure that we address all three in a holistic way. They are pieces of the same puzzle and therefore it is not practical to look at them in isolation.”
Leading businesses are beginning to understand the implications of the water/energy link and are improving business sustainability through the implementation of best practices.
• Reduce water and energy consumption through improved operations
• Treat and recycle own water and waste water (with associated energy costs)
• Recover and reuse water and energy (e.g., using steam or heat, recycle other industrial and municipal waste water)
• Develop new markets for water and energy-saving technologies and services
• Engage with local communities to reduce water and energy consumption
As a sustainability consultant, I encourage clients to examine their energy and water consumption. Through greater eco awareness of the links between water and energy, businesses and individuals can make internal improvements and be advocates for change within their communities and industries.