Urban Water-Energy Strategies In China

Via China Water Risk, a look at urban watergy strategies being debated in China:

-Urban WEN strategies are crucial as coal-power generation is shifting westwards to water scarce regions
-There are a variety of price & non-price (subsidies, retrofitting…) management tools to reduce WEN demands
-Pulbic education & promoting conservation awareness in schools are also vital tools to more water & cleaner skies

In China coal provides around three-quarters of the country’s primary energy. The total amount of coal burned per annum, over 4 billion tonnes, is nearly as much as the rest of the world combined. This enormous demand for coal has led to smog blanketing eastern cities including Beijing, Shanghai, and Hangzhou.

In response, the use of coal along the coast is being phased out, for example coal use in the province of Hebei, which surrounds Beijing, will be halved by 2017. However, power generation from coal is not being reduced or replaced by clean renewable energy. Instead, it is being shifted away from the large coastal cities with the government investing nearly half a trillion dollars in the construction of west-to-east power transmission lines.

A study conducted by the World Resources Institute found that 51 percent of the proposed coal-fired power plants are to be built in areas of high or extremely high water stress.

Furthermore the study found that 60 percent of the total proposed generating capacity is concentrated in six provinces that in total only account for 5 percent of China’s total water resources: A problem given coal-fired power generation is an extremely water-intensive process with water used to extract and wash coal; to cool the steam used to make electricity in the power plant; and to control pollution from the plant.

Large cities exposed to water stress & rapid urbanization

In China with rapid urbanization increasing demand for water and 108 cities (see table below for most water stressed large global cities), including Beijing, facing serious water shortages, the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) has announced a tiered water pricing system to encourage resource conservation.

With water and energy interlinked, water managers can use a variety of demand management tools to promote water conservation, which in turn lowers energy use from providing water & wastewater services

Water Stress Cities Table (450 pixels)

With water and energy interlinked, coastal city water managers can use a variety of demand management tools, in addition to pricing, to promote water conservation, which in turn lowers energy use from providing water and wastewater services (and water use in coal-fired power stations). In particular, water managers can use regulations, subsidies and rebates, product labelling, retrofit programmes, public education and competitions to modify the attitudes and behaviour of people towards water resources and reduce water and energy consumption patterns.

Some urban water-energy nexus solutions

Specifically, water managers can use temporary regulations to restrict certain types of water use during specified times and/or restrict the level of water use to a specified amount. Meanwhile, permanent regulations such as amendments to building codes requiring the installation of water meters and water-saving devices e.g. low-flow toilets, showerheads and faucets in all newly constructed or renovated homes and offices can be used to reduce water and energy use.

Economic instruments such as subsidies or rebates can be used to lower water consumption, and energy use, by providing subsidies for water-efficient household appliances that use less water/energy or rebates for installing water-efficient toilets or rainwater harvesting systems. The labelling of household appliances according to water efficiency is important in reducing water consumption levels (and energy use) by eliminating unsustainable products from the market. This is provided the labelling scheme is clear and comprehensible and identifies both private and public benefits of conserving water. Nonetheless, people are more likely to respond to eco-labels if the environmental benefits match closely personal benefits such as reduced water and energy bills.

Water managers can implement retrofit programmes involving the distribution and installation of replacement devices to physically reduce water use in homes and offices. The most common retrofits are toilet retrofits, involving customers having their older toilets replaced with newer low/dual flush toilets, and the distributing of showerheads and faucet aerators (devices that when inserted into taps reduce the flow of water).

Urban water managers can promote water conservation in schools to increase young people’s knowledge on the water cycle and encourage the sustainable use of scarce water resources. To do so, water managers can use a variety of strategies including: School presentations, distribution of water conservation information and materials that can be used in school curriculum.

Water managers can use public education to persuade individuals and communities to conserve water resources. In particular, there are multiple tools and formats water managers can use to increase environmental awareness and water conservation including: Public information such as television commercials, newspaper articles and advertisements, internet and social media campaigns, public events such as conservation workshops, public exhibitions, and information in water bills such as leaflets on water conservation tips.

Urban water managers can increase participation rates in water conservation programmes by promoting competition among individuals and communities to achieve specific water consumption targets. Examples of competitions include eliciting commitments to water savings targets and promoting competition through the water bill. Regarding eliciting commitments, urban water managers can obtain verbal or written commitments from individuals and communities to achieve specific water saving targets. Competitions can also be formed to compare individuals or communities water savings with one another and offer winners recognition or prizes for their water saving achievements.

Overall, with China shifting its coal-fired power stations away from coastal cities into water scarce regions, urban water managers can use a variety of price and non-price demand management tools to promote water and energy conservation. The benefit: More water and cleaner skies.

This entry was posted on Wednesday, August 13th, 2014 at 7:58 am and is filed under Uncategorized.  You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed.  You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site. 

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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.”