By: Fred Yaw Sarpong
Ghana will mark the World Water Day this Saturday March 22nd 2014, which is under the theme “Water and Energy.”
In Ghana, there will be a street procession, essay competition and debate for first and second cycle schools.
The climax of the celebration will be a durbar in Takoradi on Saturday March 22nd, 2014, during which the United Nation (UN) and national flags will be hoisted. The event at Takoradi will bring together stakeholders from water and energy sectors to deliberate on lack of access to both water and energy in Ghana.
In Ghana, the need to ensure mutual benefits in the water and energy relationship has become crucial in the face of the water energy crisis that has now almost become a permanent feature.
Exploring opportunities to maximize potential benefits has become significant following the increasing exploitation of the country’s oil and gas resources, and the associated problems including spillage. This contain in a statement released by World Water Day Planning Committee.
The UN System together with member states and other relevant stakeholders is using this year’s celebration to draw international attention to the fact that water is an energy issue and energy is a water issue. The two are closely interlinked and interdependent – it takes a great deal of energy to supply water, and a great deal of water to supply energy.
The committee said with demand rising for both resources and increasing challenges from climate change, water scarcity can threaten the long-term viability of energy projects and hinder development.
World Water Day is celebrated annually on March 22nd as a means of focusing attention on the importance of freshwater and advocating the sustainable management of freshwater resources. The Day’s celebration was instituted in 1993 by the UN General Assembly following recommendations in 1992 by the UN Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED).
‘This year’s theme highlights water and energy as inextricably connected in a complex relationship of production and consumption. The emergence of these concerns with that of the environment and the water stress that has been triggered by climate change have placed the question of this interdependency at the very heart of the debate on the international stage. Indeed, increase in energy demand will inevitably go hand-in-hand with an increase in demand for water,’ said the committee.
It noted that energy production requires a reliable, abundant, and predictable source of water, a resource that is already in short supply throughout much of the world. Water is used in electricity or power generation, primarily for cooling thermal power plants; in the extraction, transport and processing of fuels; and, increasingly, in irrigation to grow biomass feedstock crops.
While, energy is also vital for meeting the freshwater needs of populations – energy is needed to power systems that collect, transport, treat and distribute water. Each resource faces rising demands and constraints in many regions as a consequence of economic and population growth as well as climate change, which will intensify the vulnerability of water and energy to one another.
Moreover, part of the challenge for the energy sector is the competing demand for water. “UN Water” notes that this demand will grow as the world’s population reaches 9 billion, requiring a 50 percent increase in agricultural production and a 15 percent increase in already-strained water withdrawals. With two-thirds of the world’s population - or 5 billion people - urbanized by 2030, cities in developing countries will be under tremendous pressure to meet the demand for food, energy, and water services.
It is apparent, that producing energy requires a lot of water, yet, the availability of and access to water is negatively impacting energy production around the world.
According to the World Bank in 2013 alone, water shortages shut down thermal power plants in India, decreased energy production in power plants in the United States and threatened hydropower generation in many countries, including Sri Lanka, China and Brazil.
In 2007, the energy crisis experienced in Ghana was attributed to low water level in the country’s main hydro-electric dam – the Volta Lake. This also affected the supply of water. The problem is expected only to get worse.
By 2035, the world’s energy consumption will increase by 35%, which in turn will increase water consumption by 85 percent, according to the International Energy Agency.
The UN is concerned about the situation because, water and energy are so interconnected that choices made and actions taken in one domain can greatly affect the other, positively or negatively. Moreover, water and energy have crucial impacts on poverty alleviation both directly, as a number of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) depend on major improvements in access to water, sanitation, power and energy sources, and indirectly, as water and energy can be binding constraints on economic growth – the ultimate hope for widespread poverty reduction.
Against this backdrop, countries cannot meet global energy goals of extending access to the poor, increasing efficiency and expanding without water. The water energy interrelationship is critical to build resilient as well as ensure efficient, clean energy systems.
Solutions exist, but should start from an understanding of the complex relationship between water and electricity and developing technologies to keep that relationship healthy is an important key to a sustainable and secure future for countries. Failing to anticipate water constraints in energy investments can increase risks and costs for energy projects. Then, countries should continue to innovate and adapt policies and technology to address the complexity within their localized areas.