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In spite of all the attention we give to peak oil, peak water may be closer and more serious.  Without enough water, there will not be enough food.  The issues become more complex when we realize that it takes water to produce energy, and often it takes energy to obtain water.

The latest issue of the IEEE Spectrum is devoted to their special report Water vs. Energy.

As water runs short we have to devote more and more energy to obtaining and treating it.  As overused aquifers get deeper, we need more energy to pump it to the surface.  More water short areas are turning to energy intensive desalination, such as Australia, which is in a long  term drought.  The farmers in the Punjab, India's traditional breadbasket, are spending more and more to pump from an aquifer which is declining half a meter a year. China has massive problems from overuse and pollution. The American West is suffering from a long term decline in rainfall, which my really be a return to normal conditions after 150 years of above average rainfall combined with the effects of global warming.

On the other side, making energy requires water.  Even something as seemingly innocuous as hydroelectric power loses water from evaporation from the lake behind the dam. Fossil fuel and nuclear power uses water for mining and cooling. Irrigated biofuels are the worst water hog of all.

There are some engineering solution such as increased energy efficiency in desalinization. .  One article details Singapore's  advanced water re-use system. In the end these only delay the conflict.

If you have no time to read the articles, click through for the excellent graphs, diagrams and maps. -- links to over 22,000 published book reviews.

Originally posted to interguru on Wed Jun 09, 2010 at 12:16 PM PDT.

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Comment Preferences

  •  You left out a factor... (7+ / 0-)


    Float like a manhole cover, sting like a sash weight! Clean Coal Is A Clinker!

    by JeffW on Wed Jun 09, 2010 at 12:19:57 PM PDT

    •  Surprisingly few want to hear about it. (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      PeterHug, JeffW, SciVo, Larsstephens

      But it's just as much a part of any rational analysis of the whole problem of maintaining "civilization" as energy, water, environmental health, and whatever else I can't seem to remember at the moment.

      Moderation in most things. Except Reactors. IFR forever!

      by billmosby on Wed Jun 09, 2010 at 12:43:09 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  IMO, overpopulation is the center (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        billmosby, Larsstephens

        of all these linked problems.

        Unfortunately, we more-or-less have the population as it is, and changing that quickly is essentially impossible.  (The policies forbidding the US to get serious about aid to NGOs who offer birth control certainly hasn't helped either.)

  •  I live on some of the most valuable real estate (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    PeterHug, Larsstephens

    on the planet.


    I just hope we hang on long enough to see that value. I'm afraid we're going to give it away in a firesale to prop up the 20th century lifestyle.

    Democracy - 1 person 1 vote. Free Markets - More dollars more power.

    by k9disc on Wed Jun 09, 2010 at 12:24:20 PM PDT

  •  Desertec (8+ / 0-)

    One of the ways in which the Desertec scheme for the EUMENA area is so appealing is that the proposed steam generation systems using solar powered boilers (the "tower and reflector field" designs) produce potable water as a by-product.

    Salt water can be used for cooling so these power generators have a dual function.

    "Israel was born out of Jewish terrorism." Sir Gerald Kaufman, British MP and son of Holocaust survivor.

    by Lib Dem FoP on Wed Jun 09, 2010 at 12:25:05 PM PDT

    •  Strictly from an engineering standpoint... (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      ubertar, SciVo, Larsstephens

      ...I don't care for solar powered boilers, preferring solar PVC almost unreservedly.

      I mean, the goal of any machine should be: no moving parts.  Right?

      But I take your point, and you are correct.  The creation of potable water as a benefit of these solar systems has great value.

      I could see coastal solar boiler systems, as an adjunct to wind power, on the sea shore.

      How much more pleasant would that be than drilling rigs?

      It ain't called paranoia - when they're really out to get you. 6 points.

      by Jaime Frontero on Wed Jun 09, 2010 at 12:50:52 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Goal of ANY machine? (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        I don't think so. However, as it is a side issue, that's all I'll say about it.

        Moderation in most things. Except Reactors. IFR forever!

        by billmosby on Wed Jun 09, 2010 at 01:24:21 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Perhaps better stated as (4+ / 0-)

          The goal of any machine's design is to minimize the number of moving parts not essential for the primary function of the machine.

          Free online (PDF) Dr. Robert Altemeyer'sThe Authoritarians, one of the most important books ever written.

          by kbman on Wed Jun 09, 2010 at 01:32:51 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

        •  What machine shouldn't have the goal... (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          ...of no moving parts?

          It ain't called paranoia - when they're really out to get you. 6 points.

          by Jaime Frontero on Wed Jun 09, 2010 at 03:29:54 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  A wheel, for one. (0+ / 0-)

            Unless it was just for show.

            Reminds me of the two cardinal rules for fixing stuff:

            If it's not supposed to move, use duck tape.

            If it's supposed to move, use WD-40.

            By the way, for a dissertation on the difference between duck tape and duct tape, I suggest this. Unless a YouTube star named "Hot for Words" and the accompanying graphics aren't to your liking. May be marginally unsafe for work, depending. The real explanation starts about 2 minutes in.

            Moderation in most things. Except Reactors. IFR forever!

            by billmosby on Wed Jun 09, 2010 at 05:28:33 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

          •  I suppose you could say that (0+ / 0-)

            a wheel's ultimate goal would be to get you where you want to go, at which point a good little wheel should end up stopped, and therefore end up with zero moving parts.

            Ok, then, how about a wind turbine? No moving parts would be a bad thing for a wind turbine, wouldn't it?

            Moderation in most things. Except Reactors. IFR forever!

            by billmosby on Wed Jun 09, 2010 at 06:38:37 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  Down to first causes... (0+ / 0-)

              A wind turbine is a machine which extracts power from the movement of air molecules relative to the surface.

              Does it require moving parts to do that?  [Of course, it requires moving air, since that is presupposed]

              Lemme see...

              Apply dissimilar electrical charges to the molecules of two streams of incoming air?  You could probably do something with that.

              Or use the cooling effect of the breeze on one side of a thermocouple?

              Why would you want to?  Seems like solar PVC is easier and simpler.

              As for the wheel, wouldn't an anti-gravity hovercraft be simpler in operation?  Just because we don't know how to do it yet, doesn't mean we won't.

              It ain't called paranoia - when they're really out to get you. 6 points.

              by Jaime Frontero on Wed Jun 09, 2010 at 09:18:53 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  Electrons is parts. (0+ / 0-)

                And they sometimes wear out the machines that use them, sometimes catastrophically.

                By the way, I'm not engaged in some series of diatribes against solar pv. Just having a little fun with the concept of machines and what exactly is a moving part anyway.

                Microprocessors have billions of them, all exquisitely choreographed. Electrons again.

                Again, just having fun. See ya.

                Moderation in most things. Except Reactors. IFR forever!

                by billmosby on Thu Jun 10, 2010 at 08:23:44 AM PDT

                [ Parent ]

      •  PV arrays worse idea (0+ / 0-)

        For a start, the current technology is expensive and developing whereas turbines are the established method of electricity generation.

        The second huge advantage is that with heat sink systems using salt as the transfer medium, generation does not stop when the sun goes down. Instead the stored heat carries on being used well into the night. With the generators currently being proposed for Jordan and later ones probably replacing oil reserves to provide Saudis with energy income, this is essential. Peak power from MENA solar plants will co-incide with the highest industrial demands but the earlier peaking ones to the east will be essential to even up load.

        The third reason steam generation is prefered for the EUMENA scheme is that the potable water is seen as a means of development. Combined with other payment in kind in the form of electricity, the idea is to help the host countries develop sustainably. That in turn provides less "push" for illegal immigration into the EU.

        That last point should also be taken on board by the USA as co-operation with Mexico in the siting of plants could help aleviate pressure on its borders. Mind you, with much agricultural harvesting dependent on illegal immigration from the south, I wonder if there is any real desire to do that.

        "Israel was born out of Jewish terrorism." Sir Gerald Kaufman, British MP and son of Holocaust survivor.

        by Lib Dem FoP on Wed Jun 09, 2010 at 08:18:03 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  Another water/energy (5+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    PeterHug, EdlinUser, JeffW, SciVo, Larsstephens

    issue is the natural gas hydrofracturing process.  3-5 million gallons of water per well.

  •  Growing food, the way it's done... (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    EdlinUser, JeffW, SciVo, Larsstephens, requires petroleum.  Energy.

    Aside from that, we could all live nicely without oil.  It'd be pretty low-tech though.

    You can live for quite awhile without food, though.  And for a lifetime, with less than you'd think.

    But you're only good for a couple of days without water.  And the politics of the stuff is the nastiest around.

    My standard recommendation for a starting point in understanding those politics, is to watch "Chinatown".

    It ain't called paranoia - when they're really out to get you. 6 points.

    by Jaime Frontero on Wed Jun 09, 2010 at 12:32:54 PM PDT

  •  4 barrels of water = 1 barrel of oil (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    JeffW, SciVo, Larsstephens

    Alberta has serious water problems, exacerbated by tar sands production.

    It requires investment in technology and R and D. As we all know from BP it is more smoke and mirrors and marketing than actual investment. I still haven't forgotten Exxon smacking down the largest private investor and Board member who wanted more green investment.

    One of the main concerns is that because of the way that water is allocated [...] that industry is taking precedent over aquatic needs."

    "You have large industrial projects that require two to four barrels of fresh water to produce one barrel of oil in the oilsands, so that's a fair amount of fresh water," Simieritsch added.

    However, according to Mary Griffiths, energy consultant and former Pembina policy analyst, it is not just the oilsands that threaten to create water scarcity in Alberta.

    "With climate change we're going to probably see higher temperatures and more rapid transpiration which means there will be a greater potential water deficit."

    If you want others to be happy, practice compassion. If you want to be happy, practice compassion. Dalai Lama

    by ohcanada on Wed Jun 09, 2010 at 12:36:58 PM PDT

  •  I am a water lawyer... (8+ / 0-)

    ... with an environmental science background...

    I don't yet see a crisis in water (at least in the Western US) because we have yet to pick the lowest of the low hanging fruit... EFFICIENCY.

    Ever drive by a field in the middle of 95-degree summer day and see center-pivot irrigation sprinklers popping a mist of water over rows and rows of crops?... Agriculture uses about 80% of the water in the West, and that is about twice as much as they need.  With minimal upgrades and changes in practice (simple regulations to minimize daytime irrigation would save ungodly amounts of water) we could double the amount of water currenlty used for municipal and industrial use.

    As water becomes more valuable, these changes will happen.

    •  I mostly agree, with regards to the United States (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      SciVo, Larsstephens

      But I think that there are other regions that are going to be in far worse shape. And with the way economics and politics work in our modern world, a water crisis in India or China is going to have major repercussions even for people in comparatively water-rich areas.

      Deoliver47 was right and deserves some apologies.

      by seancdaug on Wed Jun 09, 2010 at 12:49:33 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  You're right - we could... (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      but we haven't yet, and I'm afraid we won't get serious about efficiency here or in any of the many other areas where that could deliver a huge benefit, until it's too late.

  •  Thanks for mentioning water. (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    PeterHug, Larsstephens

    It's one of the necessities that kind of hovers below a lot of people's radar with all that is going on these days.

    Moderation in most things. Except Reactors. IFR forever!

    by billmosby on Wed Jun 09, 2010 at 12:44:14 PM PDT

  •  water, energy, transportation and land use (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    EdlinUser, Larsstephens

    These are so intertwined! I do a little work on water issues in Minnesota which has perhaps the best water resources in the lower 48 and we will have a hard time meeting our water needs long term. I can imagine armed conflict in the southwest over water before too many more decades pass. Megadroughts will be a feature of global warming and I ask you to try to imagine the political instability caused by several hundred million people on the move because of water scarcity. Pay attention to the water.

  •  What clash? Water & energy mix well (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    take a look at the Gulf.

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