A THIRST FOR POWER: A GLOBAL ANALYSIS OF WATER CONSUMPTION FOR ENERGY PRODUCTION
Abstract: Producing energy resources requires significant quantities of
freshwater. As an energy sector changes or expands, the mix of technologies deployed to
produce fuels and electricity determines the associated burden on regional water
resources. A number of reports exist that specify water consumption by discrete energy
production technologies. This research synthesizes and expands this ... read moreprevious work by
examining the global distribution of water consumption intensity of national-level energy
portfolios. By defining and calculating indicators to quantify the relative water use
intensity of national energy systems, it was possible to highlight potentially problematic
areas of high water use intensity while also providing examples of water-efficient energy
production. The results of the research show a high variability in the national water
consumption of energy production (WCEP) for the 158 countries that were assessed. However,
looking across the indicators for WCEP internationally, the countries that were heavily
producing fossil fuel or biofuels demonstrated the greatest intensity of energy-based
water consumption. The economic imperative to develop fossil fuels drives high water
consumption in countries that already lack sufficient water supplies. Meanwhile, biofuels
require so much water over their lifecycle per unit of produced energy that any modest
commitment to producing biofuels has significant water consumption ramifications for the
country. While these results are based on a comprehensive review of available data, future
research in this area could be significantly enhanced through better data and widespread
adoption of consistent reporting mechanisms. Additional opportunities to expand the field
include increasing the resolution of the study regions, tracking these indicators over
time, and exploring innovative policy approaches to managing national WCEP effectively.
For nations facing the greatest limitations in the availability of local water and energy
resources, the need for efficient use of these resources is imperative. Indeed, many
countries are already operating at the frontier of their fragile local energy and water
systems. By defining new metrics to evaluate the intensity of water use for energy
production, this research can influence and improve policy-making for more secure and
sustainable water and energy resource management.
Thesis (Ph.D.)--Tufts University, 2012.
Submitted to the Dept. of Diplomacy, History, and Politics.
Advisor: William Moomaw.
Committee: Kelly Gallagher, Paul Kirshen, and David Marks.
Keywords: Water resources management, Energy, and International relations.read less