Hydropower and the Water Energy Nexus


Many people say that water is the most precious resource on Earth due to its life-sustaining necessity.  But it is also important for energy-production as well.  Hydropower, which obviously relies on water, accounts for a whopping 17% of electricity generation across the globe.  It is the largest of the renewable energy sources on the planet.  The problem is that water availability is on the decline.

The Impact of Water Supply on Hydropower

As I said, hydropower requires water, and lots of it.  As the supply of water declines worldwide due to climate change and other factors, hydropower generation becomes increasingly challenging.  Simply put, as water sources and reservoirs dry up, power plants that rely on water will need to source water from increasingly distant locations.  And moving water far distances, of course, requires energy.  This is what has been coined the “water-energy nexus” by Kala Vairavamoorthy, executive director of the International Water Association.

Related to this is the fact that some countries are already starting to experience a water shortage.  And many other parts of the globe will be in a similar predicament a few decades from now.  Similarly, some developing countries are rapidly industrializing, which will require lots of – you guessed it – water.  The long-term effect is that at some point, these disparate needs will inevitably create a water tug of war between factions that need hydropower and factions that need drinking water.

According to Vairavamoorthy, the main “x-factor” in this is technological development.  The hope is that new technologies will be developed someday that will reduce the cost of transporting water, increase the supply or availability of water, or reduce the amount of water needed for hydropower generation.  Until then, the water-energy nexus will continue to loom like a slowly-approaching hurricane.

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