The interdependency of water and energy is set to increase rapidly, with significant implications for a just transition both in energy and water supply. Each resource faces rising demands and constraints in many regions because of economic, population growth and climate change. Water is used to generate energy and in turn energy is used to provide water.
South Africa has had lots of rain, dams are full, but the water crisis persists. The normal national water storage percentage for South Africa is typically between 85% and 80%. While storage is important, distributing the water through the national supply systems is the final step in creating equitable access to clean water. Water treatment requires between 80% and 90% of energy for pumping of either raw water or distributing treated water. At wastewater treatment plants aeration and sludge handling accounts for the majority of energy consumed. Aeration is such a large energy consumer because the process needs the dissemination of air using a system of blowers.
South Africa is moving towards “water stressed” in global terms and the country’s average annual rainfall is 450mm compared to the global average of 860mm - highly variable rainfall has always led to skewed spatial distribution of water resources.
Climate change further exacerbates the already intense struggle over water and energy resources.
• Once there is a power outage, you are likely to have a water problem: The demand for more energy drives demand for more water and in turn demand for more water will drive demand for energy.
• Energy and water demands increase with economic development: There is an undeniable connection between income and water and energy consumption.
• Impacts on ecosystems: High demand and extraction of water and energy resources for industrial, agriculture and domestic use can pollute the environment and damage important ecosystems.
• Climate change influences energy demand: The challenges of climate change, urbanisation and population growth inflame the current imbalances in water and energy availability.
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