Water and energy sectors must work together to meet fast growing demand - global water forum

by Magda Mis | @magdalenamis1 | Thomson Reuters Foundation
Monday, 1 September 2014 17:56 GMT

A general view of the Emosson dam at the Nant de Drance hydropower plant close to the border between Switzerland and France August 19, 2014. REUTERS/Pierre Albouy

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Global demand for water and energy are expected to rise by 55 percent and 70 percent respectively by 2050

STOCKHOLM (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – Decision makers in the water and energy sectors must work together to find sustainable solutions to the world’s growing demand for both resources, delegates said on Monday, at the start of a global conference addressing water and development issues.

Governments, scientists, civil society and private sector representatives have gathered in Stockholm this week to discuss challenges and possible solutions to meet global demand for water and energy, which are expected to rise by 55 percent and 70 percent respectively by 2050 as the world’s population grows, according to the United Nations.

"The challenges are immense (and) there is an urgent need for a closer relationship between the energy and water communities if we are to provide solutions for all peoples to prosper," said Torgny Holmgren, executive director of the Stockholm International Water Institute, which organised the conference.

Water and energy are highly interdependent because water is required to produce almost all forms of energy. At the same time, energy is needed to pump, treat and distribute water, therefore decisions made in one area have a significant impact on the other.

Worldwide, 3.4 million people die each year from water-related diseases and over 4 million die as a result of pollution from using stoves burning wood or animal dung in areas with no electricity.

The importance of access to clean water was stressed in a message from Liberian president Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, who wasn’t able to join the conference due to an outbreak of the Ebola virus in her country.

"I ask that as you carry out discussions this week you remember what is happening here in Liberia and our sub-region, and of our urgent need for water security, for sanitation, and for water management," said Johnson-Sirleaf.

Around the globe, 768 million people do not have access to safe drinking water and 1.3 billion live without electricity, the majority of them in developing countries.

Experts said there is not a "one size fits all" solution for the planet’s water and energy problems and those who make decisions need to look for customized, innovative measures.

"Every solution to water is local: a solution for Malmo is not a solution for Mumbai," said John Briscoe, 2014 Stockholm Water Prize laureate.

Similarly, what worked decades ago might need adapting to current circumstances, he said.

"We have to cooperate more from research to businesses to local, regional and national governments and try to find best solutions. We have to look into what kind of challenges do we have in our particular place of the world," Hillevi Engstrom, Sweden's minister for international development cooperation told Thomson Reuters Foundation.

"It’s about small steps in the right direction. We have reduced poverty in the world and we have deducted energy, we are aware of climate change, so step by step we could reach better solutions," said Engstrom.

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