Troubled waters ahead? Rising water risk on global energy industry

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Report summary

Almost all forms of energy production and power generation are dependent on water. Although agriculture uses two-thirds of global freshwater supplies, energy is by far the largest industrial user (using more than 15% and growing). With the UN predicting a 40% shortfall in global freshwater by 2030, the energy industry is under increasing scrutiny from government and the public on how it uses freshwater supplies.

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    Troubled waters ahead? Rising water risk on global energy industry

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Table of contents

  • Executive summary
    • Almost all forms of energy are dependent on water, and water needs energy
    • Water risks vary by fuel type and by location
    • Water risks vary by fuel type, based on their different water requirements
      • Water is important: with half of global reserves in water-stressed areas and continuing regulatory uncertainties
      • The business challenges are: accessing sources of supply and addressing potential cost increases
      • Potential outcomes include: technology to improve environmental performance and more public engagement
      • Water is important: with inadequate water infrastructure for asset development and desalination demand for oil
      • The business challenges are: minimising project delays and maximising oil production
      • Potential outcomes include: improved water management and more efficient desalination technologies
      • Water is important: as energy demand doubles by 2030, adding more pressure on current water constraints
      • The business challenges are: increasing future cost pressures
      • Potential outcomes include: investment in water recycling and more water-efficient technologies
    • About WRI and the Aqueduct Project

Tables and charts

This report includes 6 images and tables including:


  • The Energy-Water Nexus, water requirements for energy and vice-versa
  • Global water consumption by fuel type - 2013
  • 2012 US Tight & Shale Gas Reserves versus Baseline Water Stress
  • Troubled waters ahead? Rising water risk on global energy industry: Image 4
  • 2012 Middle East Onshore Oil Reserves versus Overall Water Quantity Risk
  • 2012 China Coal Mining & Coal-Fired Power Generation versus Baseline Water Stress

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