An unrelenting increase in energy production, including unconventional methods such as tar sands extraction and fracking, will severely damage the world's already dwindling water supply, the UN warned on Friday.
"There is an increasing potential for serious conflict between power generation, other water users and environmental considerations," says the World Water Development Report 2014: Water and Energy (pdf), published on the eve of World Water Day.
The energy sector, which has "great political clout," the report states, is set to consume an unfair share of this limited resource, "despite ongoing progress in the development of renewables." The report continues:
The overall evolution of the global energy mix appears to remain on a relatively fixed path: that of continued reliance on fossil fuels. Oil and gas extraction yields high volumes of ‘produced water’, which comes out of the well along with the oil and gas. Produced water is usually very difficult and expensive to treat. Unconventional oil and gas production is generally more water intensive than conventional oil and gas production.While water demand is set to increase 55% by 2050, water use for energy production is set to increase 20% by 2035.
Whereas an estimated 768 million people lack access to clean drinking water and 2.5 billion lack access to basic sanitation, rich and developing countries are soaking up mass quantities of water in the energy industry, wherein 90% of power generation is water-intensive.
"There will be no sustainable development without better access to water and energy for all," said director general of Unesco, Irina Bokova.
"Demand for fresh water and energy will continue to increase over the coming decades to meet the needs of growing populations and economies," the report says, "changing lifestyles and evolving consumption patterns, greatly amplifying existing pressures on limited natural resources and on ecosystems."
As a result, it continues, freshwater availability will be "increasingly strained over this period of time, and more than 40% of the global population is projected to be living in areas of severe water stress through 2050. There is clear evidence that groundwater supplies are diminishing, with an estimated 20% of the world's aquifers being over-exploited, some critically so."
2. How to continue to pollute seas and coastal regions, undermine livelihoods of thousands and seriously impact the environment:
Less than four years after the largest single disaster in the history of the oil industry and just one week after a ban to drill in the Gulf of Mexico was lifted by the US Department of the Interior, oil giant BP was awarded license to drill in two dozen separate locations this week as it made winning bids at a federal auction with a total pricetag of $54 million.
The Interior Department lease auction on Wednesday included 326 blocks that received bids from 50 oil and drilling companies.
According to the Associated Press:
BP was the only bidder on a tract a few miles west of [of where the 2010 Deepwater Disaster occured], getting it for $1.2 million. The company was suspended from new federal business after pleading guilty in November 2012 to criminal charges from a major oil spill in the Gulf two years earlier. The suspension was lifted Friday and BP bid a total of $53.8 million on 31 tracts Wednesday, with high bids on 24.Subsequently, in an interview with the Real News Network, author and freelance journalist Cherri Foytlin, who has covered te story of the BP Deepwater disaster closely and written a book on the subject, said that BP's return to the gulf is a travesty of justice and an affront to those in the region still suffering from the impacts of the 2010 blowout.
"As the nation's largest energy investor, BP is committed to the deepwater Gulf of Mexico, where we have been an active player for a quarter century and have a multi-billion dollar investment program underway," spokesman Brett Clanton said in an emailed statement. "BP's participation in today's lease sale not only underscores the importance of the region, but it is also a testament to the vital role BP plays in the American economy and to the country's energy future."
BP's highest bid was $8 million for an Atwater Valley tract about 180 miles south of Biloxi, Miss., and 10 to 15 miles northeast of the day's most hotly contested tract — the one for which Freeport-McMoRan bid $68.8 million. The other five bids included Exxon Mobil Corp.'s $45.5 million.
BP didn't bid on that tract, but paid $1.2 million each for two within 20 miles west of it and one just east of its own $8 million purchase.
Justice has not been served, says Foytlin. "We are still seeing a large amount of environmental damages here in the Gulf Coast, and the fishing communities are still having low catches, so the communities here and the people here who are dealing with this are continuing to be affected."
3. Where will it end?
We are made of water.
From water life bloomed. Rivers of water are the blood that nourishes the earth, and of water too are the cells that do our thinking, the tears that do our crying and the recollections that form our memory.
Memory tells us that today's deserts were yesterday's forests and that the dry world knew well enough to stay wet in those remote days when water and earth belonged to no one and to everyone.
Who took the water? The monkey that raised the club. If I remember correctly, that's how the movie 2001: A Space Odyssey begins. The unarmed monkey, meanwhile, got clubbed to death.
Sometime later, in the year 2009, a space probe discovered water on the moon. The news sparked plans of conquest.
Eduardo Galeano, 'Children Of The Days'