climate impacts

World Water Week – energy, water and climate impacts

Opening plenary at the World Water Week 2014. Photo credit: World Water Week.
By Anders Lorenzen

World leaders, scientists and experts have been gathering this week for the 24th World Water Week to discuss the issues of water, and are this year focusing on the issue of water and energy.

Energy and water communities are being urged to work together as energy and water are dependant on each other, World Water Week states.

Energy is needed for pumping, storing, transporting and treating water, water is needed for producing almost all sorts of energy. An increase or decrease in one will immediately affect the other. The two resources are also inseparable from sustainable development and must be tirelessly promoted in global decision-making, it was stated.

The issue of water security becomes even more immediate in a developing world, with a rapidly growing population. Mr. Torgny Holmgren from Stockholm International Water Institute and Executive Director of World Water Week said when he addressed the opening session: “The challenges are immense. With the global demand for water projected to grow by 55 per cent between 2000 and 2050 and electricity demand expected to increase by 50 per cent in the next two decades, there is an urgent need for a closer relationship between the energy and water communities if we are to provide solutions for all peoples to prosper’’

But the issue of a stable access to water becomes even more critical in a warming world, and in disaster and conflict zones the consequences can be crucial. Below data from Stockholm International Water Institute highlights the challenging issues:

  • Water-related hazards account for 90% of all natural hazards, and their frequency and intensity is generally rising.

  • Droughts cause the most ill-health and death because they often trigger and exacerbate malnutrition and famine, and deny access to adequate water supplies.

  • Flooding increases the ever-present health threat from contamination of drinking-water systems from inadequate sanitation, with industrial waste and by refuse dumps.

  • Globally, the number of great inland flood catastrophes was twice as large per decade between 1996 and 2005 as between 1950 and 1980, and economic losses were five times as great. The dominant drivers of these upward trends are socioeconomic factors, such as population growth, land use change and greater use of vulnerable areas.

  • By 2050, rising populations in flood-prone lands, climate change, deforestation, loss of wetlands and rising sea levels are expected to increase the number of people vulnerable to flood disaster to 2 billion.

  • Current IPCC projections of rising temperatures and sea levels and increased intensity of droughts and storms suggest that substantial population displacements will take place within the next 30-50 years, particularly in coastal zones.

  • A global temperature increase of 3-4°C could cause changed run-off patterns and glacial melt will force an additional 1.8 billion people to live in a water scarce environment by 2080.

  • Land degradation is increasing. Nearly 2 billion hectares of land worldwide – an area twice the size of China – are already seriously degraded, some irreversibly. Globally, desertification, land degradation and drought (DLDD) affects 1.5 billion people who depend on degrading areas, and it is closely associated with poor, marginalized and politically weak citizens.

  • A study of 141 countries found that more women than men die from natural hazards, and that this disparity is linked most strongly to women’s unequal socio-economic status.

  • From water usage in energy to waters huge role in natural disasters, climate issues and water accessibility in a rapid growing world scientists, experts and world leaders have not been short of issues to discuss at the 2014 World Water Week.

Sub edited by Charlotte Paton

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