China’s Plan To Cleanup Air May Hurt Water Supply

Via Water Online, a report on the likely water impact of China’s new energy plan:

China’s plans for reducing air pollution may inadvertently take a toll on the water supply.

China has crafted a sweeping plan to reduce coal use. The goal is to cut coal’s role in energy output from 67 percent in 2012 to 65 percent in 2017, Bloomberg Businessweek said.

One of the strategies for achieving that goal is the creation of synthetic natural gas (SNG) plants.  China has approved construction of a whole new fleet of these operations, which convert coal to gas. But the plants may “pose a threat to water supplies in arid regions,” Bloomberg reported.

That’s because SNG plants use a highly water-intensive process, researchers said.

“One cubic meter of SNG requires 6 to 10 liters (1.58-2.6 gallons) of freshwater to produce. So in an attempt to control urban air pollution in the east, China might jeopardize its water supplies elsewhere,” according to a paper by analysts at the World Resources Institute (WRI).

Making matters worse, most of the SNG plants are slated for China’s “water-stressed” regions, the researchers said. That includes arid regions such as Xinjiang and Inner Mongolia.

The plants “will consume a total of 500 to 700 million cubic meters of freshwater annually at full operating capacity,” which is nearly 20 percent of the area’s total industrial water supply, the report said.

The result will be more water shortages, according to WRI analysts.

China’s SNG effort has attracted skepticism for other reasons, as well. A study published in the journal Nature Climate Change said it would create additional water pollution.

Scientific American reported that the new plants “would emit seven times as much greenhouse gases as conventional natural gas plants.”

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About This Blog And Its Author
As the scarcity of water and energy continues to grow, the linkage between these two critical resources will become more defined and even more acute in the months ahead.  This blog is committed to analyzing and referencing articles, reports, and interviews that can help unlock the nascent, complex and expanding linkages between water and energy -- The Watergy Nexus -- and will endeavor to provide a central clearinghouse for insightful articles and comments for all to consider.

Educated at Yale University (Bachelor of Arts - History) and Harvard (Master in Public Policy - International Development), Monty Simus has held a lifelong interest in environmental and conservation issues, primarily as they relate to freshwater scarcity, renewable energy, and national park policy.  Working from a water-scarce base in Las Vegas with his wife and son, he is the founder of Water Politics, an organization dedicated to the identification and analysis of geopolitical water issues arising from the world’s growing and vast water deficits, and is also a co-founder of SmartMarkets, an eco-preneurial venture that applies web 2.0 technology and online social networking innovations to motivate energy & water conservation.  He previously worked for an independent power producer in Central Asia; co-authored an article appearing in the Summer 2010 issue of the Tulane Environmental Law Journal, titled: “The Water Ethic: The Inexorable Birth Of A Certain Alienable Right”; and authored an article appearing in the inaugural issue of Johns Hopkins University's Global Water Magazine in July 2010 titled: “H2Own: The Water Ethic and an Equitable Market for the Exchange of Individual Water Efficiency Credits.”