Welcome to another two weekly review of energy and environmental events and developments from both here in New Zealand and around the world. As always, we hope you find our collection of stories to be of interest in what continues to be a rapidly evolving area.
We open this week with more climate change news. The bad news is that emissions continue to rise although there was a slight dip in 2008-2009 but 2010 proved to be a turning point with emissions rebounding stronger than predicated. With the major developing countries liable for up to three quarters of the increases. The good news is that the major economies are expecting some solid action on curbing emissions this time at the next round of climate talks in Durban, South Africa ….lets hope its not turn into another talk feast we have had in Copenhagen.
Not helping the climate change efforts above is our next story which you may not be familiar with, ‘Fracking with our food: how gas drilling affects farming .’ Has the world gone mad!? First there was planking now there is fracking! Anyhow, fracking is a process of drilling for natural gas by forcefully injecting chemicals through the use of millions of gallons of water into underground rock, rupturing the earth and creating fissures through which the gas passes. This business has become big bucks in the US but at what cost? Apart from affecting good agriculture land it contaminates air quality, streams, lakes, rivers and wastes lots of water doing so.
Talking about water, the remainder of this article will focus this fundamental resource that is under ever increasing demand, diminishing supply and essential for human survival. By 2030 the global water demand will have increased by 40 percent, and it appears that poor management and bad policies rather than one of scarcity is a major cause to water shortages.
The question that should be on every ones lips – has peak water already being reached with water tables around the world diminishing it’s a scary thought. We note in countries such as Saudi Arabia where ever increasing population growth sustained on the back of grain harvests through the use of unreplenishable aquifers underground. These aquifers are depleting fast and by 2012 they are likely to be totally dependent on imported grain and will be required to import water. With the use of desalted sea water for drinking being too expensive to irrigate for an oil rich country like Saudi Arabia how are neighbouring countries going to surivive – they are currently sucking dry cross border rivers such as the Euphrates and Tigris Rivers to satisfy increased demand while they too attempt to slow the decline in grain harvests.
Further afield in China the tradeoff between managing water resources and quality of life concerning one of Asia’s biggest rivers – the Yangtze which alongside poor policies and it’s worst drought in 50 years is compounding effects on the people, land and wildlife that rely on this resource. A connection of countries rely on such large rivers and streams and it is the control of these rivers upstream where 20 dams already exist with another 40 proposed to be built that will no doubt cause further headaches for the users downstream who fear access to water will become a political weapon to the detriment of poorer and less developed countries.
One would say – where do we go from here and how are we planning associated risks given the growing populations with limited water supplies. Companies will have to start understanding their risk which leads into the next article, ‘Corporate Water-Energy Footprint’ , that helps explain the nexus between water and other resources. Like reducing ones carbon footprint, reducing ones water footprint can bring a range of advantages; apart from direct water consumption cost there is the cost for pumping, process and the general treatment of water which is expensive.
Like with energy, tracking water flow by facility and location and working with suppliers is the first step in assessing ones sustainability and cost risks for their water footprint.
Apart from better management we would like to finish of this week with some clever ways on how water can be created or reused. If this makes your stomach turn don’t read on. In Singapore for example they have to import 250 million gallons a day from Malaysia to meet demand. Now they have come up with one of several strategies that most importantly takes reclaimed and recycled sewage water and through a high tech microfiltration process produces 30% (and soon increasing to 50%) of Singapore’s total drinking requirements. Next they plan to use two thirds of the country’s land area dedicated to capture of rainfall. In Kenya a simple device kept in your home claimed to remove 99.99% of bacteria, protozoa, viruses and parasites can filter enough water for a large family for three years. This goes to show that good economic (long-term) thinking, advances in technology and sound policies by government and companies can help provide solutions to people in need for a resource that arguably one could perceive as being more valuable than fossil fuels. Unless of course you are a large corporation or government with vested interests in oil or gas. Frack!
Thanks for taking the time to read this issue and look forward to catching up with you again. If you have any items of interest you would like to submit then please feel free to forward them.
From the ETSL team.