Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Emissions from energy use in the water sector are poorly understood

27.06.2011
Greater understanding is needed of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from energy use in the water sector if it is to meet sustainability goals, according to researchers at the University of East Anglia (UEA).

In a study published online today in Nature Climate Change, Prof Declan Conway and Sabrina Rothausen argue that greater focus on the energy requirements of the water sector will be a crucial part of the policy response to the huge challenges it faces in the coming decades.

Transparency in the water industry's energy use is also likely to be important for it to meet carbon-reduction commitments while responding to other measures of sustainability, such as the need for stricter quality standards and increasing demand.

To date, much attention has been given to the need for sustainable water resource management, but far less to the growing energy use and associated emissions from the water sector, for example through processes involved in water treatment and distribution and domestic heating of water.

"Pressures on water management include stricter water-quality standards, increasing demand for water and the need to adapt to climate change, while reducing emissions of GHGs," said Prof Conway, professor of water resources and climate change.

"The processes of abstraction, transport and treatment of fresh water and wastewater all demand energy. Adapting water management to meet increasing demand, regulatory standards and the effects of climate change will in many cases require greater energy use."

He added: "Energy use in the water sector is growing, yet its importance is under-recognized, and gaps remain in our knowledge. In this study we define the need to integrate energy use further into water resource management and identify opportunities for the water sector to understand and describe more effectively its role in GHG emissions, through regulatory and behavioural responses, to meet future challenges."

Some recent studies have highlighted the importance of GHG emissions from energy use in the water sector. They show that water-related energy use in the US accounts for nearly 5% of total GHG emissions, and the proportion is even higher in the UK, although there it is mostly associated with end uses of water, such as heating. In countries with very high freshwater withdrawals, most of the water is used for irrigation and the energy used in its extraction and transport is often considerable. Estimates for India suggest that emissions from lifting water for irrigation could be as much as 6% of total national emissions.

Climate change represents a huge challenge to the sustainable management of water resources. In recent decades, developments in industrial, agricultural and domestic water use, and in water-quality regulation, have greatly intensified the treatment and transport of water. Moreover, rising demand for food and biofuels, and their international trade, threaten to drive expansion of irrigated cropland and cropping intensity and hence greater use of water for agriculture. These activities generally require high energy consumption and have contributed to increases in energy use in the water sector in many parts of the world.

The 'perfect storm' scenario of sustaining increases in food production given climate change impacts and the need to reduce GHG emissions, together with increasing competition for water, provides a strong rationale for better integration of water and energy use.

There is also a need to achieve better connections between mitigation and adaptation. Consideration of alternative water supply systems, treatment technologies or water allocation may have a tendency to overlook the carbon cost; some measures regarded as sustainable water management, such as desalination, are very energy intensive. This is particularly the case in the absence of regulatory pressure, as is currently the case in most countries.

In Greenhouse-gas emissions from energy use in the water sector, Prof Conway and Ms Rothausen, of the School of International Development, quantify energy use in the water sector and detail the extent of current knowledge on emissions from the water sector and agricultural water use. Their review shows that energy use and GHG emissions in the sector are under-recognized, in part because of differences in the scope of water-sector boundaries, data availability, methodological approaches and whether results are expressed as energy use or GHG emissions.

Ms Rothausen explained: "Although end use often has the highest energy use of all water-sector elements, it has not traditionally been seen as a direct part of the water sector and is often unaccounted for in water management and policy.

"What evidence there is shows that energy use in the water sector is considerable and growing. This growth is likely to continue, sometimes as an unintended policy outcome, with greater pressure to use and maintain quality of water resources. Despite some recent progress, we need to better understand and profile the role of the water sector as a GHG emitter. A co-ordinated view of the water sector will promote more comprehensive assessments of energy use, while standardized methodologies will enable comparisons between assessments of different technologies and processes, and between regions or countries."

Greenhouse-gas emissions from energy use in the water sector is published online on June 26 in Nature Climate Change (DOI: 10.1038/nclimate1147).

Press office | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.uea.ac.uk

More articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation:

nachricht Safeguarding sustainability through forest certification mapping
27.06.2017 | International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA)

nachricht Dune ecosystem modelling
26.06.2017 | Albert-Ludwigs-Universität Freiburg im Breisgau

All articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Can we see monkeys from space? Emerging technologies to map biodiversity

An international team of scientists has proposed a new multi-disciplinary approach in which an array of new technologies will allow us to map biodiversity and the risks that wildlife is facing at the scale of whole landscapes. The findings are published in Nature Ecology and Evolution. This international research is led by the Kunming Institute of Zoology from China, University of East Anglia, University of Leicester and the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research.

Using a combination of satellite and ground data, the team proposes that it is now possible to map biodiversity with an accuracy that has not been previously...

Im Focus: Climate satellite: Tracking methane with robust laser technology

Heatwaves in the Arctic, longer periods of vegetation in Europe, severe floods in West Africa – starting in 2021, scientists want to explore the emissions of the greenhouse gas methane with the German-French satellite MERLIN. This is made possible by a new robust laser system of the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT in Aachen, which achieves unprecedented measurement accuracy.

Methane is primarily the result of the decomposition of organic matter. The gas has a 25 times greater warming potential than carbon dioxide, but is not as...

Im Focus: How protons move through a fuel cell

Hydrogen is regarded as the energy source of the future: It is produced with solar power and can be used to generate heat and electricity in fuel cells. Empa researchers have now succeeded in decoding the movement of hydrogen ions in crystals – a key step towards more efficient energy conversion in the hydrogen industry of tomorrow.

As charge carriers, electrons and ions play the leading role in electrochemical energy storage devices and converters such as batteries and fuel cells. Proton...

Im Focus: A unique data centre for cosmological simulations

Scientists from the Excellence Cluster Universe at the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität Munich have establised "Cosmowebportal", a unique data centre for cosmological simulations located at the Leibniz Supercomputing Centre (LRZ) of the Bavarian Academy of Sciences. The complete results of a series of large hydrodynamical cosmological simulations are available, with data volumes typically exceeding several hundred terabytes. Scientists worldwide can interactively explore these complex simulations via a web interface and directly access the results.

With current telescopes, scientists can observe our Universe’s galaxies and galaxy clusters and their distribution along an invisible cosmic web. From the...

Im Focus: Scientists develop molecular thermometer for contactless measurement using infrared light

Temperature measurements possible even on the smallest scale / Molecular ruby for use in material sciences, biology, and medicine

Chemists at Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz (JGU) in cooperation with researchers of the German Federal Institute for Materials Research and Testing (BAM)...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Plants are networkers

19.06.2017 | Event News

Digital Survival Training for Executives

13.06.2017 | Event News

Global Learning Council Summit 2017

13.06.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Touch Displays WAY-AX and WAY-DX by WayCon

27.06.2017 | Power and Electrical Engineering

Drones that drive

27.06.2017 | Information Technology

Ultra-compact phase modulators based on graphene plasmons

27.06.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>