Worldwide Water Shortage by 2040: Scientists Urge Energy Alternatives

First Posted: Jul 29, 2014 12:48 PM EDT

Water is used around the world to produce electricity. Yet there may not be enough water in the world in order to meet demand by 2040, according to a new study. The new findings highlight the importance of the energy and power situation at hand.

There's a current clash between the need for drinking water and the need for water for electricity. In most countries, electricity is the biggest source of water consumption since power plants need cooling cycles in order to function. The only energy systems that don't require these cycles are wind and solar systems. Yet as our water supplies dwindle and energy demand increases, there may be a looming problem.

The researchers focused on the global electricity water nexus. They found that by the year 2040, there won't be enough water to quench the thirst of the world's population in addition to keeping current energy and power solutions going. In fact, the scientists found that most power systems don't even register how much water is being used to keep the systems going.

"It's a huge problem that the electricity sector do not even realize how much water they actually consume," said Benjamin Sovacool, one of the researchers, in a news release. "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 researchers found that by 2020, many areas of the world will no longer have access to clean drinking water. In fact, about 30 to 40 percent of the world will have water scarcity. This means that officials will have to decide whether to use water on keeping power plants going or for drinking water.

That's not to say there aren't solutions. By improving energy efficiency, creating alternative cooling cycles, and registering how much water power plants use, officials and researchers can potentially help lower the amount of water used in the future.

The findings highlight the fact that something has to be done in terms of lower the amount of water used in the energy sector. By taking steps, it's possible to make sure that there's enough water in the future.

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