The kinetic energy of water stored in reservoirs behind dams can be used to turn turbines for electricity generation. But there is a tension between the use of water for drinking and health, and the use of water for producing energy. Water is essential for life. The bulk of the world’s 7.5 billion people live in cities located on rivers or by the sea, and depend on water for sanitation, sewerage and nutrition. But water is also used in many of the processes used to produce oil and gas, including the controversial process known as “fracking” in which water is blasted into shale to release the oil and gas it contains. Water is also used intensively in petroleum refining.
Energy and Water
Making energy requires huge amounts of water. Transporting water requires huge amounts of energy. There is no simple solution to the energy vs water conundrum, but advances are being made.
The geopolitics of water
Geopolitical tensions in the 20th century were dominated by access to oil. In the 21st century, water is emerging as the most likely cause of war between countries. Water is a gift of nature, but the rivers and lakes that are created by the water cycle often span national boundaries. The use of water and related resources is frequently contested, and few treaties exist defining the rights and obligations on the use of water between countries. Most recently, Egypt and Ethiopia came close to conflict over plans to dam the Nile river, which Egypt believes will take a toll on its agricultural output. The delicate web that links human society with nature reflects the interconnection of all life. Water use is often taken for granted, but one community’s use of water may have a critical impact on other communities.