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The Links Between Energy, Food And Water For A Sustainable Future

Congress: 2015
P.G.Courses & Research centre, D.N.R.(Autonomous)COLLEGE(Andhra University – Estd.1945)1

Keyword(s): Sub-theme 6: Links with the energy, food and environmental sectors,
AbstractWater and energy are each recognized as indispensable inputs to modern economies. And, in recent years, driven by the three imperatives of security of supply, sustainability, and economic efficiency, the energy and water sectors have undergone rapid reform. However, it is when water and energy rely on each other that the most complex challenges are posed for policymakers. Despite the links and the urgency in both sectors for security of supply, in existing policy frameworks, energy and water policies are developed largely in isolation from one another--a degree of policy fragmentation that is seeing erroneous developments in both sectors. Examples of the trade-offs between energy and water security include: the proliferation of desalination plants and interbasin transfers to deal with water scarcity; extensive groundwater pumping for water supplies; first generation bio fuels; the proliferation of hydropower plants; decentralized water supply solutions such as rainwater tanks; and even some forms of modern irrigation techniques. Drawing on case studies from Australia, Europe, and the United States, this research paper attempts to develop a comprehensive understanding of the links between energy and water and food to identify where better-integrated policy and management strategies and solutions are needed or available, and to understand where barriers exist to achieve that integration. In this research paper we draw out some of the themes emerging from the Special focus, and, particularly, where insights might be valuable for policymakers, practitioners, and scientists across the many relevant domains. It is when water and energy rely on each other that the most complex challenges are posed for policymakers. Most directly, vast amounts of water are needed for mining coal, drilling oil, refining gasoline, and generating and distributing electricity from traditional and renewable energy sources. In the United States, for example, the energy sector is the single biggest user of water in the economy (Carter 2010). Conversely, energy is needed to pump, transport, treat, and distribute water, particularly in the production of potable water through the use of desalination plants and water and waste-water treatment plants (U.S. Department of Energy 2006; Stillwell et al. 2011). Certainly, in aggregate terms, the water sector is not a significant energy user, but with governments keen to reduce national greenhouse gas emissions the opportunities for win-- win solutions for climate change, energy security, and water conservation are great. For example, in Australia, the energy used by water utilities is only 0.2% of total energy use, but major efficiency gains can be found in the water heating part of the cycle. Water heating is responsible for 25% of residential energy demand and 27% of greenhouse gas emissions in Australian households, excluding transport (Kenway et al. 2008, p. v). This means that, at a national level, a 15% reduction in the use of residential hot water or an equivalent increase in the efficiency of residential hot water systems would completely offset the total energy used by the utilities providing water to those households (based on data from 2006/07, see Kenway et al. 2008, p. VI). Despite the interdependency of the two sectors, in existing policy frameworks, energy and water policies are developed largely in isolation from one another--a degree of policy fragmentation that is seeing erroneous developments in both sectors. The proliferation of desalination plants and interbasin transfers to deal with water scarcity (Pittock 2011), extensive groundwater pumping for water supplies (Shah et al. 2003), decentralized water supply solutions such as rainwater tanks (Kenway et al. 2008), and even some forms of modern irrigation techniques, are all examples of questionable tradeoffs between water and energy security. To add to the complexity, climate-change mitigation policies adopted by national governments and the UNFCCC favor a number of water-intensive energy sources and carbon-sequestration methods that have the potential to exacerbate the negative trade-offs between water and energy. The challenges for policymakers and industry are to develop effective policies, processes, and analytical tools that integrate the energy--water nexus (and related issues such as food security) into policy and investment decisions. However, it is highly conceivable (and, arguably, preferable) that, in some cases, existing mechanisms can be adapted to account for energy--water interactions. For example, various forms of strategic environmental assessment (SEA) have been designed and adopted internationally, with the explicit intention of assessing policies according to long-term objectives that reflect the principles of ecological sustainable development. The failings of the strategic environmental assessment hitherto can largely be put down to inadequate implementation, or to insufficient knowledge and/or financial resources to carry out the assessment adequately (Marsden and Ashe 2006), but the fact remains that strategic planning and risk assessment are useful tools to apply to complex socio-ecological systems (Hussey and Schram 2011). Similarly, existing planning and development legislation could be reformed to take account of cross-sectoral impacts (Oppermann et al. 2011), and so too methodologies such as life-cycle analysis and foot printing can be deployed to greater effect (Gerbens-Leenes et al. 2008). It is beyond the scope of this paper to explore in detail the many legal, economic, institutional, and social reforms recommended in the papers; instead we offer two significant outcomes that emerged from the COST Climate--Energy-- Water Links initiative. The first is described as The First Four Steps to Achieving Sustainable Energy and Water Security, a collection of key questions for policymakers at the local, regional, and state levels. Bonte, M., P. J. Stuyfzand, A. Hulsmann, and P. Van Beelen. 2011. Underground thermal energy storage: environmental risks and policy developments in The Netherlands and European Union. Ecology and Society 16(1):22. [online] URL: Byrne, J., A. Zhou, B. Shen, and K. Hughes. 2007. 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2011 IWRA - International Water Resources Association - - Admin