The Water-Energy Nexus / 1.

I guess I should just say what we already know: water is critical to all life functions. It’s not that water is ever more or less critical to life but its availability and predictability is changing. And, those changes will have profound impact on geographies around the world.

I have written several posts about this before. Continuing attention is being given to the tightly-coupled relationship between water and energy demands because of the need for each to enable more of the exploitation of both. This will be the first of several posts to profile just how important this relationship is and will be going forward into the future. In this same context, I have recently written about the growing importance of wastewater management/recycling. Just as wastewater is growing in importance, so is the management of water used throughout most of our global industries and processes.

In a recent article in WaterWorld: Less Water, More Technology, Growing Water Risks Drive New Initiatives in Industrial Water Efficiency by Jeff Gunderson, this issue is summed up very nicely with a quote by a senior vice president and industrial wastewater technical leader with HDR:

“…this linkage — known as the water-energy nexus — is becoming a significant, driving factor in the pursuit of water-efficiency-related projects across the industrial economy.”

At first, it might seem that wastewater somehow just slipped into the equation. In a way, it has. The view that municipalities around the world have of wastewater had begun to change profoundly. A recently compiled report by the Danish Ministry of Environment: Water – Food – Energy Nexus: Towards a Widening of the Water Agenda, outlined the challenges facing the world.

“The time that water challenges could be addressed in isolation has past. Trends as population growth and economic development are increasing the demand for water, food, and energy. In addition the impact of climate change will have huge consequences on water and food availability. If we fail to move to a more sustainable use of our natural resources the social and economic consequences will be enormous.

It is clear that there is no place in our interlinked world for isolated solutions aimed at just one sector. If the world is going to reduce hunger and eradicate poverty in a sustainable way we have to achieve security for water, food and energy simultaneously. In such an effort water will be the medium by which we should address this nexus.”

I just viewed a very interesting Infographic from the Asian Development Bank entitled: Building Resilience Against Disasters. Of the many facts that propagate this sheet, two seemed to be staring at me more than the others.

  • Most Asian cities lack efficient wastewater treatment systems; and
  • More than two-thirds of collected solid waste is not disposed of properly.

This is significant because the Asia-Pacific Region has suffered the greatest loss from natural disasters – more than 50% in the past 40 years. Disasters reap havoc on the entire environment of a devastated area. Think of the impact from any flood or hurricane or tsunami or earthquake.

Just the other day, as I was driving through a suburb of Washington, DC, I just started thinking about many of the things that we often take for granted. Perhaps these thoughts came from the numerous infrastructure projects that seem to be so visible and “disruptive”. Yes, they can be a nuisance. Imagine what our cities would be like without this hidden-from-view necessity?

Back to the idea of the nexus. Much of the world is balancing a fine wire between providing a reliable source of clean, potable water and managing its growing wastewater volumes. Much of the world is challenged to have adequate water for daily consumption and agriculture. California has been playing water roulette for too many years. This recent drought and declining water reserves is putting the state in the same condition that persisted in Australia for over 11 straight years – only ending a few years ago.

Without adequate water, many of our generating plants will go dark.

Without adequate water supplies, the hidden-from-view services such as wastewater treatment will become more challenging and no longer relegated to those “other” countries.


Posted in Climate, Water | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Wastewater Is No Longer Sewage

For many parts of the world – and, yes, even in the United States, the term waste-water is becoming obsolete. As global population continues to grow, the demands placed upon our environment will only get greater. And, since, I have added a recent post on freshwater, I thought it might be appropriate to balance the scale with a post about wastewater.

A recent article from The Hindu: There is No Such Thing as Waste-water, profiles the freshwater/wastewater demands of Bangalore, India. Bangalore is the capital of and is located on the Deccan Plateau in the southeastern part of the Indian state of Karnataka. Bangalore is India’s third most populous city. If you know anything about India, you know that it is the second most populous country in the world behind China and has many environmental challenges – as does China -as it must deal with the rising wealth of large portions of its population. With growth and rising levels of personal wealth come greater levels of consumption.

The article provides a useful overview of wastewater issues.

“A waste-water master plan, the appropriate location of the treatment plants, the creation of wetlands and water bodies are all what is needed. Bangalore has been the pioneer in many such initiatives and in cleaning up our environment it can be the leader too. In this lies water wisdom.”

But that is India. There are just some places around the world where we “expect” there will be issues of greater magnitude than we must address. Yet, the real focus of this post is not Bangalore, India but in California’s Silicon Valley. The article: Here, Drink A Nice Glass Of Sparkling Clear Wastewater offers just one example of the issues that many of the more arid regions of the United States (and other countries) must address. As with any change, there is resistance. And, there is/was plenty of resistance by area residents.

“In California’s Silicon Valley, there will soon be a new source of water for residents. That may not sound like big news, but the source of this water – while certainly high-tech — is raising some eyebrows.”

Imagine these changes being required in your community. How would you respond?

Posted in Human Innovation, Water | Tagged , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Fresh Water: One More Example

I was introduced to this site by a close friend, Joe Mastromatteo. There are numerous sites for organizations doing some great environmental work in developing countries around the world. As you can imagine from reading these posts, freshwater is a critical necessity in many countries around he world and acute water problems are getting increasingly worse.

The site you will visit in this post will share some interesting details about their work in Malawi but also about the personal journey undertaken but its founder. His story reinforces my belief that life is a journey and that we have the ability to control our outcome. And, perhaps, more importantly, that is matters little what is our eventual motivation to undertake our search, It is the eventual achievement that will justify the challenges we encounter – and address, head-on, in our search.

Besides the organization’s mission, there are two video components of the site that I hope you will spend the time to view. The opening video (nearly 4 minutes long) on the home page profiles a small village in Malawi. I guess the reason this video is so appealing to me is because, except for the more distinctly different climate/environment in the village shown than I lived with in the hot, dry, expanse of the West African Sahel, the lifestyles were very similar.

I think you will be most affected by the daily routines of life in a small village in a developing country. In spite of the hard physical labor, community is strong and vibrant.

The second video (over an hour long) is the organization’s founder, Scott Harrison, speaking to an audience about his journey. The are additional graphic images of many of the challenging conditions rampant throughout Africa.

Finally, like all aid organizations, you might find it personally rewarding to affiliate in some way with its work.

I hope you will find this site as fascinating as I did and use it as a tool to better understand many of the challenges that exist around the world.

Charity: Water

Posted in Human Innovation, Water | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment