Global Confrontation Over Water and Energy

Via Circle of Blue, a brief summary of some of the world’s most serious watergy crises:

Intense national programs designed to meet growing global demand for energy are creating a number of mammoth and dangerous energy production zones. As Circle of Blue and the Wilson Center have reported since 2010 in our Global Choke Point Project, tapping those zones yields urgent contests over fresh water supplies, environmental and economic security, and public safety.

India is a player in the swirl of these new global energy, water, and food trends. Last year, in our first reports from the Choke Point: India project, Circle of Blue described how India’s policy of providing free energy and water to farmers produced massive grain surpluses that rot in storage facilities in the northwest Punjab region. Meanwhile, so much energy is wasted moving water with electric pumps that the country is unable to mine enough coal in its eastern states, causing fuel shortages in thermal electrical power industry.

India’s response to that is not to ask farmers to pay for water and electricity, a change that would temper demand for energy and for water, and ease food surpluses. Rather, India is building highly complex hydroelectric production facilities in the treacherous alpine valleys of the world’s tallest and most perilous mountains.

Circle of Blue and the Wilson Center, its Global Choke Point research partner, also have reported on the fierce global contest for energy and water in these production zones:

Tar sands mining in Alberta, Canada, and fracking deep shales in the U.S. to produce new streams of oil and natural gas come with manifest evidence of serious damage to land and to water.

So much oil-fueled power is needed to convert seawater to fresh water in the Arabian Gulf that several studies, including one by the Qatar Foundation, predict that desalination is a factor in the enormously unsettling economic prospect that Saudi Arabia will cease to be an oil exporter by the early 2030s.

A serious contest for scarce water between livestock herders and mining companies has developed in Mongolia’s energy-rich South Gobi desert.

China’s Yellow River Basin, a desert region that produces most of the nation’s coal and a fifth of its grain, will run out of water by the early 2020s unless energy and farm production practices undergo formative changes.

Australia was gripped by a 12-year drought in the Murray-Darling Basin, its primary food production region, that started in the late 1990s. While the big dry unfolded Australia installed courageous, expensive, and pioneering water conservation equipment, farm production practices, and policy designed to limit the consequences of the next big episode of water scarcity.

In the United States, a severe drought in Texas prompted voters last November to approve a $2 billion bond to support water conservation and water supply measures. The federal and California state governments this year agreed to spend $2 billion in relief to aid farmers and cities affected by a three-year drought, and state lawmakers are proposing a $7 billion to $9 billion bond for equipment and construction to improve how the state stores, transports, and conserves fresh water.

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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.”