Humanity May Face Choice By 2040: Conventional Energy or Drinking Water

Yves here. It is surprising that it is only now that the idea of water as a scarce resource is getting the attention it deserves in advanced economies. It was when I was in Australia, between 2002 and 2004, that I first heard forecasts of resource constraints that depicted potable water as the one at most risk, with global supplies in serious trouble by 2050. A related issue, which this post addresses to a degree, is that dealing with water, energy, and food supply limits are an integrated problem, yet are typically handled as isolated issues. We see, for instance, the use of corn-based ethanol placing strains on global cereal supplies (the amount of corn used to make ethanol in the US in 2009 contained enough calories to feed 330 million people for a year at average daily intake levels).

Similarly, as Americans are learning, fracking uses large amounts of water and often damages aquifers, putting pressure on water resources. But many processes that produce potable water from otherwise unsafe water, like desalination, require significant amounts of energy. So while articles like this are an important step forward in bringing attention to the fact that these issues are interconnected, they still fall short of discussing its larger dimensions.

By Andy Tully, a news editor at OilPrice. Originally published at OilPrice

A set of studies based on three years of research concludes that by 2040, the need for drinking water and water for use in energy production will create dire shortages.

Conventional electricity generation is the largest source of water use in most countries. Water is used to cool power plants to keep them functional. Most power utilities don’t even record the amount of water they use.

“It’s a huge problem that the electricity sector do not even realize how much water they actually consume,” says Professor Benjamin Sovacool of Denmark’s Aarhus University, one of the institutions involved in the research. “And together with the fact that we do not have unlimited water resources, it could lead to a serious crisis if nobody acts on it soon.”

The research, which included projections of the availability of water and the growth of the world’s population, found that by 2020, between 30 percent and 40 percent of the planet will no longer have direct access to clean drinking water. The problem could be made even worse if climate change accelerates, creating more heat and causing more water evaporation.

That means humankind must decide how water is used, Sovacool says. “Do we want to spend it on keeping the power plants going or as drinking water? We don’t have enough water to do both,” he says.

The researchers, also from the Vermont Law School and CNA Corporation in the US, a non-profit research institute in Arlington, Va., focused their studies on specific utilities and other energy suppliers in four countries: China, France, India and the United States.

First, they identified each country’s energy needs, then factored in projections of water availability in each country and its population level as far as 2040. In all four cases, they discovered, there will not be enough water by then both to drink and to use at electricity-generating plants.

So how to prevent this conflict? The studies agreed on starting with the simplest solution: Alternative sources of electricity that don’t require massive amounts of water.

The recommendations are improving energy efficiency, conducting more research on alternative cooling mechanisms, logging water use at power plants, making massive investments in solar and wind energy, and abandoning fossil fuel facilities in all areas susceptible to water shortages.

This last proposal may be the most difficult to implement because parched areas now include half of Earth. But Sovacool says it would be worth the investment.

“If we keep doing business as usual, we are facing an insurmountable water shortage – even if water was free, because it’s not a matter of the price,” he says. “There will be no water by 2040 if we keep doing what we’re doing today. There’s no time to waste. We need to act now.”

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71 comments

  1. jgordon

    “The recommendations are improving energy efficiency, conducting more research on alternative cooling mechanisms, logging water use at power plants, making massive investments in solar and wind energy, and abandoning fossil fuel facilities in all areas susceptible to water shortages.”

    I’m just going to mark down the tepid half-measure “solutions” on offer in the post in the “ecocide/suicide-biosphere destruction” column while I wait with bated breath for you all to dig up some ideas that may be jotted down in the “we just might get through this–maybe, if we’re lucky” column. A start might be the acknowledgement that humans, as a species, have to cut energy use by about 90% if we want to continue having any kind of industrial civilization that supports a reasonably large population in the future. From there we can start talking about other stuff.

    1. Ben Johannson

      Humans do not need to cut energy use by 90%. We have the technology and the real resources right now to replace every watt of fixed electrical generation with wind and solar. All that is lacking is the political spine to make it happen.

      1. Eeyores enigma

        You have no idea what you are talking about but then that never stops anyone.

        Your comment reminds me of the trip I made taking my daughter and her stuff to Arizona. All the way down the interstate 5 corridor there were hundreds of signs, banners, billboards, saying the drought is not real, that it is all congresses fault and everyone should call on congress to end the drought.

        All that is lacking is intelligence.

        1. bluntobj

          Indeed. A coldly rational view would suggest that a 90% cut to population would be the “full measure” solution.

          Which is why intelligence is not the only thing lacking.

        2. hunkerdown

          And the cargo cult of representative democracy keeps going just a little while longer…

      2. MrColdWaterOfRealityMan

        Ben,

        The less nasty, and more specific rebuttal to your statement is as follows:

        1) Electricity and fossil fuels are not interchangeable. The planet’s interdependent supply chain web is critically dependent on CHEAP transportation fuel. Even with the most advanced battery technology, Electricity can’t yet replace that with an equivalent price/performance ratio. The energy density is just not there. There’s an engineering reason we don’t have electric trains, planes or ocean going vessels.

        2) Neither wind, hydro nor solar are ecologically benign. At the moment, it still takes significant hydrocarbon energy input to mine, transport and refine raw materials for both windmills and solar panels, nor is manufacture and shipping of either windmills or solar panels energy free.

        While hydrocarbon energy may only have 50 years or so to run, and it’s ending will be disastrous, consider that without it, we would have consumed all arable land in our search for energy. Forests would be cut. Land planted with energy crops. Hydrocarbon energy, as awful as it is in some ways, has probably staved off the inevitable ecological disaster created by overpopulation.

        Safe nuclear power via Thorium and better, cheaper batteries might yet get us out of this box, but not at current population levels and probably not in time. The population bottleneck at the end of the century promises to be unpleasant, but inevitable. Unfortunately, you are correct about one thing. Our politicians and sociopolitical organization are simply not up to the job of either predicting, or addressing this problem proactively in any significant way.

        1. WorldisMorphing

          [“The population bottleneck at the end of the century promises to be unpleasant, but inevitable.”]

          The population bottleneck is already happening right now…

        2. mellon

          Thorium isn’t safe. its no better than current technologies. It has the same problems, also it can melt down after a solar storm just like conventional reactors we have now. Also, the waste can still be turned into weapons.

          1. Crazy Horse

            Five short sentences. Four complete fallacies. And one misleading distortion— yes, the waste products of a LFTR reactor can be enriched to weapons grade, but at a greater cost and complexity than simply starting with ordinary uranium ore.

            I suggest you do a minimal amount of research before posting.

        3. Ben Johannson

          I didn’t say anything about transportation, I said that every watt of fixed electrical generation can be replaced with wind and solar. Please note that I reject the notion of a 90% cut in energy use, not arguing we would be able to continue using all the energy we desire in every sector. The personal automobile will largely become a thing of the past, for example. And yes, production of a new energy infrastructure will not be free of ecological footprint, but it is doable, and it is the only alternative. Society will never accept the lights going off; even suggesting it as some here have (never mind the strange delight some take in the thought of apocalypse) is equivalent to demanding business as usual. I would gladly trade the short-term harms of alternative energy capital goods for ridding ourselves of most fossil fuel use. Coal and natural gas can be gone within fifteen years, while oil use declines at a gradual rate as personal and commercial vehicles are grandfathered out.

          The cost and power conversion curves on solar are nearly vertical at this point. In fact they’re developing so rapidly a great many continue to hold off on new generating capacity because they expect a much better return in only a few years. Once the curve matures solar is going to explode. It could do so now if we made it a national security priority.

          1. hunkerdown

            Society doesn’t need to accept the lights going off. They can circle around the other four stages of grief for as long as necessary.

            If you aren’t proposing new systems of relation to these new means of production, you *are* demanding business as usual take a minor change in diet.

            1. Ben Johannson

              . . .new systems of relation to these new means of production

              1) What does this mean?

              2) How does it address anything I wrote?

              1. different clue

                If we remain within the current political order with its Prime Directive of Jawbs and Groaf, then the usage of electricity will expand beyond the “same as now” which the new technologies could provide. Then we will either add coal/gas for electricity on top of the new technologies or else we will roll out so much of the new technologies as to cause whatever brand new problems they will cause on a runaway growth track.

                Whereas if we couple these new technologies with economic shrinkage and consumption shrinkage, these new technologies could indeed provide all the shrinking amounts of electricity we would need in a rational degrowth world.
                http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Degrowth
                But people who hear you or me or someone else say that will say . . . ” oh yeah? What’s in YOUR footprint?” To have any personal credibility with such people in order to even be heard, persons for degrowth will have to adopt some visible displayable degrowth in their own personal-consumption lives.

          2. optimader

            Ben Johannson
            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Electricity_sector_of_the_United_States#mediaviewer/File:United_States_electricity_generation_by_fuel_1990-2040.png

            Pick and easy number, lets say 4trillion KW/h, and work it backwards on resource allocations to build those wind turbines and solar panels. When will this generation capacity endeavor be say.. 50% complete?

            Where ya gonna mine all that niobium?
            Gonna use CarbonFiber and epoxy for turbine blades? How are you going to mfg all that CF? Do you have any idea how much fossil fuel it will take to make this stuff???

            Many people don’t comprehend the concept of SCALE.

            1. optimader

              “Coal and natural gas can be gone within fifteen years,”
              Ben, not even if you started 15 years ago..

              1. optimader

                Skippy
                One of the few longterm holds I’ve kept after jettisoning the stockmarket is Vestas, call it my form of missionary work. was well I was a fairly serious investor in Zoltek, a US firm that focused on lowcost carbon fiber manufacturing, Vestas supplier, before it was acquired by an Asian competitor and I was cashed out.. As well my company has supplied commercial scale mfg technology to A123Systems and intermediate levels of pilotscale technology/ sample mfg support to other innovative battery startups so they can produce their various esoteric materials. We host pilot scale manufacture of GTL catalysts for NREL other entities doing this sort of work. I’ve provided development support for torrified wood projects that have the objective of displacing coal at power generation plants etc etc, so I can safely say I’m doing more than throwing alt-energy initiatives in the well.

                That all said, I would prefer deeper analysis than “Coal and natural gas can be gone within fifteen years,” Unqualified optimism is neither illuminating or serving the critical evaluation of what are reasonable expectations. Expectations have to be achievable and quantifiable to be sustainable on such an unprecedented effort as is being suggested.

                I am all for calculable energy cost externalities to be applied to the resource alternatives, but the notion there is alt-energy magic bullet that can displace fossil fuel in 15 years IMO is an irresponsible assumption to start from.

                1. optimader

                  Shortage of Resources for Renewable Energy.

                  UK Government Report Calls for “Strategic Metals” Plan.

                  Not only are supplies of oil and natural gas under imminent threat of failing to meet demand for them, but so is a whole range of precious metals, along with indium, gallium and germanium and other vital elements such as phosphorus and helium, as is discussed throughout this Commentary. A report1 from the Science and Technology Committee, advised by the Royal Society of Chemistry, warns that if the U.K. does not secure supplies of strategic metals, its economic growth will be severely jeopardized. Of particular concern are indium, used in touch screens and liquid crystal displays, and rare earth elements (REEs) particularly neodymium and dysprosium, used to fabricate highly efficient magnets for electric cars and wind turbines. Platinum group metals are an issue too, used in catalytic converters and fuel cells. As is true of oil and gas, and indeed world population, such resources are not evenly distributed around the globe, and for example 80% of available new platinum is extracted from just two mines in South Africa. 92% of the niobium used in the world (for superconducting magnets and highly heat-resisting superalloys e.g. in jet-engines and rocket subassemblies) is exported from Brazil, and 97% of REEs are presently supplied from China. In developing a low-carbon transport infrastructure, it is proposed that biofuels should be used principally for aviation where there is no practical alternative to liquid fuels. Thus, it is ventured, electric cars will become increasingly important in providing personalised transport while avoiding the use of petroleum or natural-gas based fuels. The knock-on effect is that new sources of lithium must be found along with the means to mine and process the metal, plus the inauguration of recycling technology for lithium. One can immediately take issue with the practicalities of both arms of this scheme, however. Roughly one fifth of all fuel in the UK is used for aircraft, or around 13 million tonnes. At a yield of 952 L/ha and a density of 0.88 g/cm3, to produce this much biodiesel would take 15.5 million hectares of arable land, of which the UK has only 6.5 million hectares. Thus if we were to stop growing food crops entirely and just rapeseed, we could still only fuel 42% of our aviation fleet. It is obvious that just a few percent at best of our current number of planes can be kept in the air by means of biofuels. Clearly, the days of cheap air-travel are numbered and this may be one reason why the coalition government has scrapped plans to build the controversial and vexed third runway at Heathrow Airport. Given the 30 million cars on the roads here currently fuelled by oil, the case for a wide-scale implementation of electric-cars might appear compelling. However, the lead-in time to make a dent in that number of vehicles and the 60 million tonnes of crude oil used for fuel would be decades at best, even if the necessary supplies of REEs, lithium and overall manufacturing capacity for them could be achieved. The most practical use for electricity is to power mass transportation, e.g. tramways and railway networks rather than individual vehicles.

                  1. optimader

                    ok, I surrender, I’m not going to try and finish trying to post Chris Rhodes illuminating analysis, if your interested in reading further search on Chris Rhodes and ErgoEnergy, this site throws his blog site posts “in the well”
                    cheers..

                    1. skippy

                      Yeah opti I know about critical resources and the importance of utilizing in the best way possible for transitioning. Yet we probably won’t make a serious stab at it till the writing on the wall [neg externalities] is crystal clear to just about everyone.

                      Hay I just wish mitigation was deployed at the ability we have on offer, rather than exporting it or muffing around waiting for the next gen.

                      Skippy… we might only have one shot at this… eh.

                    2. optimader

                      I just wish mitigation was deployed at the ability we have on offer

                      Indeed on that sentiment.
                      The MIC is an insatiable beast when it comes to sopping up resources and human capital, I puzzle on how long it’s spinning dishes will stay on top of the sticks? The Broken Window poster child.

                  2. Christopher Dale Rogers

                    As I’ve stated previously, the Elite’s know what’s going on, so we have to question their motives for doing nothing, or worse, heading towards the wall whilst pushing the pedal to the metal – the myth of perpetual growth within economics.

                    What our masters tend to forget, you know the ones pushing for the “new world order” via mechanisms such as the WTO, is he who transitions first to the new economic realities of the next industrial/social revolution will be the top dog as far as geopolitics is concerned, so its in the “national interest” to begin restructuring ASAP for those with the foresight to acknowledge the “new” realities.

                    One thing is for sure, unless we have a major breakthrough in “hydrogen energy production”, the 24/7 monstrosity that is the world today will grind to a halt quite rapidly once liquid fossil fuels are depleted, unless we are able to capture all the methane that is out there and make valuable use of that – the positive upswing of all of this is that globalisation in all its forms will halt and be reversed as the world becomes more local/regional again.

                    Obviously, in the new world to come, personal forms of transport will become a thing of the past, unless its driven by human energy. We’ll also see a return to wind powered transportation and lighter than air forms of air transport.

                    Whilst I’m very much a dystopian, this belief is infused by how crass our supposed global leadership is, which I don’t see changing anytime soon unless we have a massive global revolution and movement towards a more socialist/humanist society – namely, a more egalitarian society, rather than the serfdom our neoliberal friends have in mind for those of us lucky to survive the coming fall. A fall which in reality is unnecessary, but one they seem determined to fulfil at breakneck speed – hence the urgency for all the so called “free trade deals”, which have zero to do with actual free trade and everything to do with corporations creating monopolies and enslaving us all.

                    So the next epoch is certainly going to be interesting, particularly if we can overgrow the global elite and institute the necessary socioeconomic reforms to save our species – don’t bet on it though if the USA is any benchmark.

          3. Vid Beldavs

            The DiiEUMENA project has a goal of by 2050 meeting 90% of electrical power needs in Europe, North Africa and the Middle East with solar and wind. See – http://www.dii-eumena.com/. Major players are involved – Siemens, ABB, Deutschebank, many others. Parallel to this development is the work of Elon Musk and others to develop energy storage systems to mate up with solar and wind. The giga factory with over 4 million sq. feet under roof that is under construction will supply not only automotive needs but also distributed solar.

        4. Crazy Horse

          ColdWaterMan,

          I agree with your conclusions almost in entirety. Humans as a species will not acquire the necessary wisdom and social system maturity to use the technologies they have at hand to radically change how they relate to the ecosphere— at least not within the time left in the fossil fueled industrial exploitation population bubble. They have instead already started running at full gallop toward their own buffalo jump.

          That said, I do question the article’s basic premise—- that electricity generation necessarily depends upon vast quantities of water. Coal and conventional light water reactors both rely upon Rankine steam cycle generators that do require large quantities of water to perform the cooling function of the cycle. But that is not the only way to generate electricity once you discard the silly idea of using an atomic reaction to boil water.

          One of the most costly and dangerous aspects of the conventional nuclear reactor derives from its use of water as the energy transport medium. In order to achieve minimally acceptable thermal efficiency this water has to be held at very high pressures in mission-critical piping systems. This creates a steam-hydrogen explosion waiting to happen as soon as active cooling is interrupted as we have seen in the Fukushima core melt-downs.

          One of the many advantages of the liquid fueled molten salt reactor is that it operates at ambient pressure with automatic fail safe shut down with no human intervention and no emergency power source needed. Because it operates at high temperature—- the temperature necessary to turn salt into a fluid— its thermal efficiency is much higher than coal and nuclear plants using steam generators. In fact the output is air heated to the point where it can run an aircraft style turbine directly with no combustion of fossil fuel and thus directly drive a generator to produce electricity. No water required. No combustion emissions produced.

      3. Massinissa

        Ben, please tell me this is some kind of joke and that you dont actually believe that.

      4. Paul Tioxon

        Ben,
        Good for you. Technology is not the issue. Political battling is. From Standard Oil losing kerosene lantern fuel business to Tesla, Edison and Westinghouse, the battle of electricity vs fire and its fuel providers will be a historical epoch delineated by waving goodbye forever to the atavistic fire cult.

        SOUTHEASTERN Pennsylvania Transit Authority (Septa) has awarded ABB a contract to supply a second Enviline energy storage and recovery system for Philadelphia’s Market – Frankford line.

        The system will enable Septa to recover train braking energy through the 700V dc third rail electrification system and reduce energy consumption, while simultaneously generating revenue by returning unused power to the local grid.

        Enviline will be installed at Griscom substation, and the system is already in operation at Letterly substation, where it was installed in 2012 in a joint project between ABB, Viridity Energy, and Saft Battery which was funded with the aid of a $US 900,000 grant from Pennsylvania Energy Development Authority.

        In 2012 Septa secured a $US 1.44m grant from the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) to test the viability of an alternative battery technology to the one used at Letterly. The Griscom installation will therefore use a hybrid storage system, combining supercapacitors with batteries, which ABB says will recover more braking energy, produce higher revenues from frequency regulation, and extend the life of the batteries.

        Septa says the results of testing at Griscom substation will be made available to other public transport operators in the United States to help them make better informed decisions about how wayside energy storage might benefit their own operations.
        ————————————————————————————————————————————-
        NFL Sports Stadium produces more energy than it uses at games.
        ————————————————————————————————————-
        If the NFL’s Philadelphia Eagles, who wear green, added any more wind or solar power to their stadium, the facility would have to comply with rules meant for Pennsylvania electric utilities.

        The team buys power from 14 wind micro-turbines and more than 11,000 photovoltaic cells on and around Lincoln Financial Field, which can produce up to 3 megawatts of power, Don Smolenski, the team’s president, said in an interview last week. “The Linc” now has the largest solar array of any NFL arena, larger than FedEx Field of the Washington Redskins (who the Eagles dispatched this weekend, 24-16).

        The stadium’s current power capacity pushes up to the limit for “customer-generators,” or small producers, in Pennsylvania. More solar panels would trigger different regulations, Smolenski said. In particular, the stadium could no longer participate in so-called net-metering, which allows small producers to sell power back into the grid. It would instead belong to a category of power producers that must participate in wholesale electricity markets, according to an NRG Energy spokesperson.

        http://www.businessweek.com/news/2013-11-18/nfls-eagles-lead-division-from-gridiron-to-power-grid

        ———————————————————————————————————————————–

        I could go on. But what’s the point. Talking to the blowhards on this site who think they are smarter than me is futile. I actually personally view the above examples of solar power taking over the city and region. Will it be fast enough. Don’t know, too busy getting more people on board with bigger and better installs.
        ———————————————————————————————————————————-
        http://www.nrgsolar.com/projects/footballstadiums/lincoln-financial-field-project/

        ———————————————————————————————————————————

        http://www.sep.benfranklin.org/greater-philadelphia-innovation-cluster-gpic-for-energy-efficient-buildings-award-ceremony/

  2. Anand Shah

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      1. Carla

        This brings up a comment from a friend of mine re: this post. He said “The biggest user of water is agriculture, not electrical power. The claim that electrical power is the greatest user of water in every country makes this report suspect to me.”

        Of course, ceasing to grow food is not an answer. But how much water could sustainable agriculture conserve?

        1. ewmayer

          This article is way, way, way off the mark in its “grave concerns” theme, in that it misses a huge difference between power-plant cooling water and (say) agriculture: while power plants use large amounts of water for cooling and to boil into steam which drives the turbines, they use relatively little of it *up*. Steam cooling towers and cooling ponds only need to evaporate a small fraction of the water to achieve the needed cooling because evaporation involves an energetic phase transition — same reason human ancestors evolved sweat glands.

          Nearly all the input water simply gets re-emitted at a slightly higher temperature, or even not that, since cooling towers and ponds are designed to allow evaporative cooling back to the input temperature.

          And even more so than agriculture, power plant cooling water need not be anywhere near potable – in fact since power plants do some basic filtration of incoming water so as to no gunk up their piping, the emitted water is significantly cleaner than the incoming. Farseeing engineering plans here even consider combining power plant water handling with municipal water supply treatment: the filtration step for cleaning, and evaporative cooling provides free (or deeply discounted) desalination:

          In other words, power plants offer far more potential positives w.r.to water supply than negatives. This is basic thermodynamics and engineering, i.e. actual science — which is why most economists are utterly clueless about it — and the gist is right in the opening paragraph of Wikipedia`s entry on Thermal Power Station:

          A thermal power station is a power plant in which the prime mover is steam driven. Water is heated, turns into steam and spins a steam turbine which drives an electrical generator. After it passes through the turbine, the steam is condensed in a condenser and recycled to where it was heated; this is known as a Rankine cycle. The greatest variation in the design of thermal power stations is due to the different fossil fuel resources generally used to heat the water. Some prefer to use the term energy center because such facilities convert forms of heat energy into electrical energy.[1] Certain thermal power plants also are designed to produce heat energy for industrial purposes of district heating, or desalination of water, in addition to generating electrical power.

          So really, the only issue is that one *does* need access to a sufficiently plentiful supply of input water. But almost none of this need go to waste. Again, basic engineering – in an arid climate, site your power plants near the ocean or (if landlocked) water reservoirs and use them not just for their e-power but also for water treatment. The desalination accompanying evaporative cooling makes ocean water a perfect solution for power plants near the ocean. One simply needs to not do moronic things like building power plants (especially nukes) nbelow the “high tide mark” in a known tsunami-prone zone, like the feckwits/greedheads at TEPCO did with Fukushima.

  3. The Dork of Cork

    A absurd piece of fluff – Earth as a sort of Barsoom
    But we need some fictional characters to sortof flesh it out like
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Barsoom
    There will be no water in 2040……….
    Me thinks there will be water in Ireland in the year of our lord 2040……and Scotland.and Norway and and and all temperate and tropical areas for that matter.

  4. abynormal

    “Singapore could become the first water exchange in the world, supported by its water services industry expertise and solid regulations, the Straits Times quoted Sandor as saying. Having a water exchange would encourage more efficient [anything but] use of the resource, he said.” (Bloomberg)

    here’s a break down for how ‘they’ will subsidize the privatization of water using the Water Resources Reform and Development Act of 2014 (WRRDA)
    http://www.truth-out.org/news/item/24359-water-privatization-coming-to-a-century-old-system-near-you
    Water Industry Considers New Trade Bill http://www.wateronline.com/doc/water-industry-considers-trade-bill-as-political-fight-shapes-up-0001?atc~c=771+s=773+r=001+l=a

    on the Global front: “Even as the World Bank Group continues to promote water privatization, its own data reveal that a high percentage of its private water projects are in distress [greed drain]. Its project database for private participation in infrastructure documents a 34 percent failure rate for all private water and sewerage contracts entered into between 2000 and 2010, compared with a failure rate of just 6 percent for energy, 3 percent for telecommunications and 7 percent for transportation, during the same period.”
    ***“Corporations don’t have a social or development mission,” Naficy told me. “Right now we’re funding development to prop up private projects, instead of putting the decisions for funding in the hands of governments that are accountable to people.”*****
    http://america.aljazeera.com/opinions/2014/4/water-managementprivatizationworldbankgroupifc.html

    “High and fine literature is wine, and mine is only water; but everybody likes water.”
    Mark Twain

    1. Carolinian

      Let’s keep the water and cancel the World Bank, also known for helping destroy the rain forest. Surely water privatization is one of the more pernicious notions to issue from those neoliberal social engineers.

  5. Lawrence Rupp

    So how to prevent this conflict? The studies agreed on starting with the simplest solution: Alternative sources of electricity that don’t require massive amounts of water.

    How about an even simpler solution: Universal restriction of one child per female.

      1. Christopher Dale Rogers

        Lawrence sir,

        A population cap is all very laudable, particularly given “peak humans” is expected to hit the 11 billion mark before tapering off from thereon in. Currently, as a species we able at least to feed a population of 7 billion, and with massive changes to food intake and production, possibly could feed all our expected “peak”. Regrettably, we don’t live in an ideal world, but one run by sociopaths, psychopaths and tyrants – all groups intent on accumulating as much cash and power as is possible, and this means control over all resources, including, no doubt, the air we breath. This is the one end game, but the other is more pernicious, no less than global genocide of those deemed surplus to requirements by the “cabal”, namely, you and I.

        At first one would assume I’m some kind of conspiracy nut, and I wish I was, but the only logical conclusion, given the large body of evidence, much of which emanates from the US military itself, combined with the prodigious outpourings of many of the “think tanks” and globalist organisations detailed by Paul Tixon a few evening ago, combined with a complete and utter lack of compassion or long-tern concern exhibited by the global elite itself, suggests that only one nefarious global outcome can be contemplated by the 0.1%.

        And, if we think such a dire forecast by myself is beyond the pale, lets just look at how prescient much of the output of Philip K. Dicks has proved, or George Orwell. And if we think it cannot happen, please think again, because we have the benchmark to extrapolate from, namely Germany between 1933 to 1945, if not the USA’s decision itself to use the atomic bomb – both Hiroshima and Nagasaki being chosen as testing grounds many months before the first atomic weapon itself was tested in New Mexico.

  6. David Petraitis

    The headline is of course a myth. Humanity will not have a choice. The choice will as always be made by a very small number of people and the corporations they control. The decisions will include very little attention to the bottom 6.5 billion (or more) humans on the Earth. I predict that the levers of control, property rights, money, economic power, political persuasion and violence will be used to maximize the availability of this scarce resource for the wealthy elites. (I know sort of a no brainer default prediction that has 99.99% chance of being true.)

    1. Vid Beldavs

      I believe you are wrong. Many of the most wealthy, among them Bill Gates, Elon Musk, Warren Buffet campaign for more inclusion and a fairer distribution of wealth. The system is readjusting to the technologies of the day. In the hayday of rail the robber barrons were at the pinnacle of wealth and power. The current period is marked by unusual levels of wealth and power to computer related entrepreneurs. The next wave of technology will bring others. A wealthy society, with a large numbe of wealthy people cannot be sustained by an abnormally uneven distribution of wealth. Some form of revolution brings about more even distribution of wealth. Stopping upward mobility leads to violent revolution. Prudent people don’t want violent revolution.

  7. Justicia

    We are running long-term deficits in our natural capital. The EROEI (energy return on energy invested) has fallen from 30 to 1 for oil and for most coal-powered electricity and tracked gas the EROWI (energy returned on water invested) in borderline or in negative territory. If we keep burning through our natural capital at this rate it’s not only our economies that will be bankrupt.

  8. Timothy Gawne

    This is a false choice.

    What we need to do is stop excessive population growth. All else is wishful thinking and noise.

    Remember, too-rapid population growth is largely a result of government policies encouraging it, because cheap labor. Whether it was the Mexican oligarchs or Iranian Ayatollahs or Vladimir Putin demanding that people have more children than they can support for ‘patriotic’ (i.e., cheap labor) reasons, or open-borders immigration policies (which doesn’t just move people around, but by using the surplus labor of one country to cancel the effects of low fertility in another country, really does maximize global population. A world without borders is a world whose population will soon be set by Bangladesh).

    Poverty doesn’t cause high fertility rates. High fertility rates cause poverty. It is governmental policies aimed at driving wages down that cause excessively high fertility rates.

    Look at California. The rainfall is well within the historical range. Yes, 2013 was a dry year, but the years before and after were either normal or wet. The problem is that with on the order of 40 million people and growing, the wet years after the dry ones are no longer enough to refill the reservoirs and aquifers, because the population keeps growing. Fixed fresh water supplies + more people = less per person. But this simple and obvious equation is almost completely edited out of mainstream discussion, because it is ‘racist’, that is, because it might threaten the profits of the rich…

    1. Gerldam

      Although I agree with you that overopulation is the main problem, you cannot put Putin, however much you loathe him, in the same league as the ayatollahs or the Mexicans, since Russian population is decreasing at the moment and increasing Russian population is a major issue for the contry to survive as such.
      Now going back to the main issue of the post, I fail to see why cooling power plants uses water that is wasted forever. Most of the water used in those huge cooling towers end up as vapor in the atmosphere ( a major green house gas) and ends up as rain later in the water cycle. Not mentioning that, for cooling purposes, you do not need treated and filtered water. A technical issue is more how to store for later use the zillions of tons of water that fall during large thunderstorms, or even hurricanes.
      Now Africa is another issue: it just does not rain enough, both for drinking water and for growing food crops. it is also the continent where population growth is highest. They should follow the Chinese example.

      1. different clue

        One way to store those zillion tons of rainfall from thunderstorms and hurricaines all over the land-part of the world would be to restore soil waterholding capacity to where it was before the age of industrial scale agricultural commodity bulk production. If a million square miles of American soil east of the hundredth meridian were restored to its pre-agricultural water-insoak ability and water-retention capacity, it could slowly ooze-feed that retained water into subsoil and underground aquifer systems, restoring them to their former size and storing the zillion tons of water therein.

  9. Eeyores enigma

    The biggest problem with reports like this is that they always say things like “by 2040…”.

    Long before 2040 it will be plainly apparent and thats the end of the lie that exponential growth, or any growth for that matter, (I know all growth is exponential) on a finite planet is possible. No growth no monetary system where all money is loaned into existence. The end.

  10. russell1200

    I would have liked the article better if they had discussed the amount of water lost to the system rather than absolute water usage. The water in a river can be used, cleaned, and then put back into the river many times before it reaches the coast.

    Agriculture, and of course we need food for all these people, is often one of the big wasters of water, often loosing much more to evaporation than needed.

    If a power plant recaptured 97% of the water it used, would it still be a big water-pig?

  11. MtnLife

    Population control isn’t the only solution. These is no single magic bullet that will solve all our woes. Even if the population stayed at its current level, the way we live life now is unsustainable. To keep living our fossil fuel dream we’d have to cut world population by roughly 90% and that is morally and politically unfeasible. You can’t even suggest that maybe we should pull the plug on those who have been in a coma for over 5-10 years without being called a Nazi. Since ICU costs run $3,000-4,000/day for long term care we spend over $1 million/year on life support for a vegetable. Imagine what that money those resources could be used for? Not to mention opening up bed space in our overcrowded hospitals for people who are actually living.
    We need to stop being so f’ing lazy and reliant on machines to do everything for us (hey, exercise outside of a gym, whoda thunk?). The main reason why we have monocropped farms, and subsequent use of petro- fertilizers/pesticides/herbicides/labor and transport, is because the machines don’t do a great job of intercropping. Biointensive organic farms produce more food (and profit) per acre than conventional farms but require a LOT more human sweat equity. We have plenty of excess labor lying around as well as completely unnecessary employed persons (advertisers, telemarketers, etc) serving no purpose other than to sent us down the tube faster. Humans, and Americans in particular, seem to feel that civilization has progressed to the point where they shouldn’t have to lift a finger to do a single thing in their daily lives. Who vacuums anymore if they have a Roomba? Anyone remember watching TV before remote controls? ADHD and laziness exacerbation in one!
    I’m not advocating for a complete loss of electricity, just a total divestment of fossil fuel and nuclear generation. There are more grid sized power solutions than previously with a decent amount of ongoing research in this area. Not just huge batteries but intelligent ways of dealing with power variance such as pre-positioning water for gravity distribution during excess power periods and micro-hydroing it on the way to its destination. There are a large number of existing flood control devices on rivers that could easily produce power. You could even anchor floating primitive water wheels across a river for power generation without disrupting river traffic or fish migration. It’s not that there aren’t solutions. Those solutions just require an uphill battle against the naysayers, haters, established players, and inertia of the status quo.

    1. Christopher Dale Rogers

      Having just sat and watched Gasland Two – freely downloaded from the internet – one was struck by the central theme of that documentary and several themes that have been emergent on this forum over the past three years or more.

      So, and commentating as a Brit, I was struck by the fact that many of those complaining about the destruction of their way of life were driving around in rather large gas guzzling vehicles, many – particularly those in Texas, were living in homes in excess of 2000 square feet, homes with huge fuel costs associated with them no doubt, whist moaning that the fracking/energy companies were not only poisoning them, their neighbours and the land itself for generations, but that all this had a detrimental impact on the values of their homes and their land. What struck me further, was most, if not all of those followed by the documentary seemed like classic examples of Republican voting fodder – not as if it makes too much difference as far as policy outcomes are concerned.

      Now that that is said, the central takeaway was this, the power of the oil/energy corporations in driving through whatever they desire, regulatory capture, politician capture at a state and federal level and the now famous “revolving door” between industry and government. And many people wonder why nations like the UK and USA are “fucked”!

      Now, and in that grand old English tradition of the left, I’m a bit of a dystopian and usually at a loss as why so many of my peers seem somewhat immune to what’s going on around us supposedly being done in our name. But, and given the overwhelming body of evidence coming out of the USA, be it economic or environmental, find it unfathomable why the majority of our elected Westminster MP’s and the present ConDem government have endorsed and encouraged tracking in the UK. usually the UK population is docile and non-confrontational, however, and if very recent history is a precedent, these supine jokers in Westminster may be in for a rude awakening, and said bloody nose will not be imparted by the left, but rather from the Conservative forces themselves in the UK, usually referred too as the Nimby brigade and green wellie brigade, this being the monied middle-class, which no doubt will not be impressed by 10,000 fracking rigs destroying their countryside for them.

      One can but hope, and this brings us full circle back to the fact that in a country such as the UK, which is actually quite a wet nation with good, clean water resources, why would our elected baboons wish to destroy our precious water reserves for a few measly years supply of not so cheap gas from fracked wells, when in reality, all the energy we could possibly require exists courtesy of our coastline and proximity to strong winds – solar not being too much of an alternative in the UK in reality.

      Again, and as I’ve made clear over my last few posts, we seem to have a massive disconnect between the governed and the governing, we seem to have an electorate have asleep at the driving seat addled by drugs, booze, TV soaps and reality TV and propaganda emanating from the MSM, be it print, online or over the airwaves. But on this occasion, i just think the buggers in London and the energy companies and cronies have bitten off a bit too much, for nothing put the willies up the UK government more than grannies in wellington boots getting a twee violent because some fool has decided to destroy their green and pleasant views.

      I’ll leave it their, but on this occasion, and with all that’s at stake, in the UK at least, i think we may see some blowback, which kinda asked the question why we aren’t witnessing the same in the USA?

      1. MtnLife

        A large portion of the US conservative base seems to have some serious cognitive dissonance between their actions and the outcomes affecting them. Not that it is limited to conservatives but their affliction seems worse. Another aspect keeping the blinders on Americans, besides bread and circuses, is geographical distribution and population density. England doesn’t really have a whole lot of space to throw up thousands of wells without them being in everyone’s face. Here you can drop 10,000 in the Dakotas, 10,000 in Texas, etc and no one else in the country really has to see them but gets the “benefit” of “cheap, clean natural gas”. Very similar to the way our monocropped factory farm eco dead zones are out of people’s minds because they’ve never driven through Kansas in the summer, not having a single bug splatter on their windshield, and those who have probably didn’t give it a second thought.
        I’d also think England would be especially concerned about global warming induced arctic melt shutting off the Atlantic pump. Having a moderate climate there is pretty essential for any sort of self sufficiency.

        1. Christopher Dale Rogers

          MtnLife,

          On a positive note for a Leftie like me, the good news about global warming and attendant sea level rises is the fact that London and swathes of the South East will be six foot under water – when the water really does rise and Westminster and Buckingham Palace are threatened, the government may actually begin building some infrastructure to keep all that water at bay, similar to our Dutch friends or the infrastructure around New Orleans – don’t wish to lose all that expensive property do we!

          Oh and this would mean a jobs boom hopefully, regrettably, most of which will be filled by None-UK nationals, the Irish may be happy though.

      2. Carolinian

        Max Keiser was talking about this on his RT show–which comes from the UK–and said it would make more sense to reopen the coal mines than to go all in for fracking in England. I believe he also said English homeowners don’t own the mineral rights under their homes and fracking companies can therefore drill under your house without your say so (fracking can drill horizontally).

        It does seem absurd that the present government is trying to turn your “green and pleasant land” into Texas. Add in your crazy banking sector and this American has to wonder what’s the deal with British politics? Of course I feel the same way about Canada and other countries that used to be considered more civilized. My own country I somewhat understand–we’ve always been about money. Sad that the rest of the world seems to have caught the same disease.

        1. Christopher Dale Rogers

          @Carolinian,

          Nearly everything one way or another belongs to the “crown” in the UK, unless it happens to be public utilities, which were sold off to mainly overseas buyers. So yes, what’s about three feet under the ground of your property belongs to the Crown and this extends out to UK territorial waters. However, please remember that its a question of who wears the “crown” in the UK, and this was settled by Oliver Cromwell, which essentially means Parliament – we even get to decide who wears the ceremonial Crown in the UK, something that began way back with Henry VIII and one Thomas Cromwell. On a more positive note it seems the ConDem Alliance has a suicide complex, for much of what it is doing even Mrs Thatcher herself backed-off from undertaking, but whoa beside anyone who upsets the English Middle Classes proclivities – they had huge issues with banning fox hunting – usually ignored, so really don’t see fracking catching on here in the UK, despite all the propaganda they may utilise, or laws passed to branding grannies as terrorists if they vandalise rigs, which they certainly will.

  12. Rust Bely Cynic

    A huge, underlying issue is that Americans use too much energy. The average American household uses twice the electricity as a European household and ten times the electricity of a Chinese household.

    1. LucyLulu

      And when immigrants move from living in poverty in third world countries to the U.S., they change from low-energy consumers to adopting high energy lifestyles similar to Americans. The higher fertility rate of Hispanics is welcomed as a boon to future Social Security deficits.

      1. Christopher Dale Rogers

        LucyLulu,

        I’m afraid I must concur with you, my own wife is from a Third World country and obviously now lives in a First World country with me, to say she is wasteful is an understatement. For the record, as an individual i have one daughter only, own no car, try and travel as little as possible, shower once per week and change clothes when necessary – my wife refuses to follow my lead, this despite the fact that our energy and water costs in Hong Kong are about four times those in the USA, by way of example, for a 600 square feet apartment in the middle of a hot summer my last electricity bill was over US$300 – which shocked me and I’ve lived here 18 years – but that’s for a flat that at least three, if not for times smaller than the average size property in the USA – in the UK, the average size property is under 1000 square feet and new build rabbit hutches selling for £250,000 are about 800 square feet, and gas and electricity prices in the UK are expensive compared to the USA, as is Petrol and Derv, both of which are more than US$10 per gallon.

          1. different clue

            There must be a way to shower once a day with one seventh ( 1/7th) the water per normal average shower. If your one shower per week uses 7 gallons, is there a way to develop technology and shower-behavioral methods to use only 1 gallon of water per shower? Thereby making possible 7 one-gallon showers per week? That approach would attract more adherents.
            ( And yes, we Americans still use natural organic quarts and gallons, the way God made them).

          2. Christopher Dale Rogers

            Ever hear of good ole soap and water – unless you are in heavy industry or are actually in a highly physically demanding job, showering or bathing daily is an utter waste. I also recommend utilising wet-wipes for your daily visit to the bathroom shall I say. Oh, and by the way, water in Hong Kong is a huge problem – not so in Wales, which is why I’d prefer to live in Wales if I had the US$100,000 my government demands in a “bond” for my wife to also live with me and our daughter.

  13. craazyman

    what if people drink the water after it cools down?
    then when they pee, recycle it back into the cooling tank
    this seems like a solvable problem to me, but maybe I’m too optimistic.

    1. Christopher Dale Rogers

      Craazyman,

      I know this is a predominately USA site, but in the British army for much of the twentieth century we utilised a Bren gun as our light infantry support machine gun, and the Bren gun crew were usually issued with a minimum of two barrels to interchange due to heat issues, but one way of cooling said gun barrel down rapidly was to urinate on it, which is what we actually used to do – urine is also used for making gunpowder and was a prized asset in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries – anyone one for urine futures and derivatives?

    2. craazyboy

      I’m glad someone asked that question!

      Actually, this article doesn’t have much cred in identifying the problem. But you do craazy!

      They like to build power plants next to the ocean for cooling water. In that case, it’s salt water and not drinkable.

      For the inner parts of the country, they like to build next to natural lakes, or make their own cooling ponds. This is fresh water, and it warms up then is discharged and cools down. (Think Great Lakes in the winter time) It didn’t get chemically transformed into something else, and may not even be radioactive depending on plant specifics.

      The way I understand the problem, basically, climate change is supposed to change weather patterns so that our recycled, evaporated water rains over the ocean and not over land. It does take a leap of faith to believe we would be that unlucky, but the demand side is a problem too due to population growth combined with ever increasing per capita use.

      1. craazyman

        or like Chris says above, build them next to bars and use the beer pee for coolant. A little common sense can solve almost any problem!
        I don’t know what happened to global warming. We’ve hardly had a hot day (that’s a lot of “h”s) this summer, coolest summer I can ever recall. But I still crank the AC anyway cause i’m a hot weather wimp. It’s the humidity, more than the heat, that those of us civilized parlor intellectual polymathematical types who are unspeakably lazy and sensitive to discomfort of any kind find objectionable.

        1. craazyboy

          Doing good in S.AZ too. This is what we call “monsoon season”. Don’t laugh, it is pretty wimpy monsoons – a hour of rain maybe once or twice a week. But we get clouds that shield us from the usual desert sun. This is all due to moisture moving up from the Sea of Cortez, which is only 100 or so miles away. So we are in the high 90s most of the time, which we think is very good. And that’s in mid afternoon – mornings are in the 80s.

          The electric bill is in the $60-$65 range – I just have to run the air for an hour or two late afternoon. ‘Course I dress like an indian – that helps.

        2. different clue

          What happened to global warming? Well . . . its still quietly patiently melting the non-polar glaciers and icefields, and nibbling away at the polar ones as well.
          Last winter was very cold in the Midwest. But I started wondering what was happening elsewhere. So I looked at realtime temperatures for normally cold places. One night when it was one degree below zero here in Ann Arbor, it was zero degrees in Barrow, Alaska at that very same moment, according to the internet. One degree warmer in Barrow Alaska than in Ann Arbor Michigan. Wait a minute . . . shouldn’t Barrow, Alaska be colder than Ann Arbor, Michigan in winter? And various Siberian cities were anywhere between 20 and 30 degrees at that same time. So global warming was certainly somewhere, just not right here in Michigan.

  14. different clue

    This is a potentially high value thread. Regrettably it will be long-since-abandoned for newer shinier threads by tomorrow, and much of the potential value capturable will never be realized.

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