Neil Young.

Neil Young & The World Bank – Water vs Energy

The recent uproar over Neil Young’s comments about Alberta’s oilsands development got me thinking about energy and water. Water is used in many of our energy generation methods. Whether it’s hydro power, thermal generation, oil extraction, etc., water is vital to most current energy production methods.

That might not be a problem except water is also vital for agriculture, industry, drinking water, domestic use, waste removal and recreation.

How do we decide who gets the water? Population increases and worldwide development are putting more pressure on energy and water worldwide. How do we plan development to alleviate or at least mitigate these pressures? The human and financial ramifications of decisions today will have impacts long into the future.

The World Bank is taking notice of the energy/water crisis that is approaching.

At the recent World Future Energy Summit and the International Water Summit in Abu Dhabi, William Rex, Lead Water Resources Specialist at the bank, explained that with the world’s energy consumption expected to increase by 35 percent by 2035, the pressure on water resources also is likely to increase. Additional pressures on water resources including urbanization, industrial grown and increased agricultural demand will compound the problem. “We see, for example, thermal power plants in several countries around the world that have had to stop generating because they lack the water used for cooling,” Mr Rex said. The World Bank has launched an initiative to tackle the water footprint of energy generation called Thirsty Energy.  Mr. Rex said the objective was “to develop water-efficient energy, energy-efficient water and, most importantly, the tools to plan and manage these two critical resources together”. (Todorova, 2014)

We all require energy for heat, transportation, light and other day to day activities.

We also require clean water to drink, grow food, hygiene and sanitation. This conflict between water usages isn’t going away anytime soon. Water treatment, recycling, use reduction and process efficiency can help mitigate some of the demand but not all. Forecasts of more unpredictable weather and less rain will add further pressure on water resources. Planning is more important now than it has ever been.

Plans need to be adaptive and in order to be adaptive you need real-time data.

To get real-time data you need monitoring. Monitoring is vital to planning and management, by monitoring we enable informed decisions that can put the right projects in the right places and allow for the protection of important and sensitive areas. Having modern adaptive systems in place to track, report, disseminate and protect data is vital. Integrated systems with current data regarding usage and supply that can also feed into forecasting tools and models can provide managers with the information they need to make decisions. Water resource management is not going to get any easier as demands grow and the climate changes. The need not just for data but information will become more and more important.


Todorova, V. (2014, 01 22). The National – UAE. Retrieved 01 22, 2014, from The National:

Photo credit: AP

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