Water Costs for Producing Fuel

hotblack photocredit 1160501,article.waterdesalinationplants.comMost people do not know how much it costs us – in water – to pump gas into our vehicles. The water cost is enormous and as water becomes the next ‘gold’ for this earth, it is frightening that we are currently using so much water for every gallon of fuel – in fact: 13 gallons for every gallon of fuel.

More and more water is necessary to supply energy. A recent National Geographic News report  indicates projections by the International Energy Agency (IEA) suggests that if current trends continue, the volume of water consumed for energy production worldwide will double by 2025.

The billions of gallons of water used in the fracking industry for shale gas and the burgeoning growth in hydraulic fracturing practices in many parts of the world puts a strain on water resources. But… believe it or not, the water hungry industry we don’t often think of as such a beast is actually the coal-fired electricity and the growth in biofuel production.

In the world’s quest for ‘alternative’ fuels, one assessment by the IEA indicates that by 2035 biofuels could account for 30 percent of the water consumed for energy production, up from about 18 percent in 2010.  Depending on where and how the fuel stock is grown eg corn, sugar cane or agricultural byproducts, tends to dictate the water-intensity of the biofuels.

Sarah Postel, director of the Global Water Policy Project and Freshwater Fellow of the National Geographic Society stated in her recent article that ‘according to a 2009 study in Environmental Science & Technology, the 2007 U.S. Congressional mandate to produce 15 billion gallons of corn ethanol a year by 2015 would annually require an estimated 6 trillion liters of additional irrigation water (and even more direct rainfall) – a volume exceeding the annual water withdrawals of the entire state of Iowa.’

And just when you thought we were doing a good thing with developing alternative energy options and different solutions to/for water use, the bottom line is still takes about 2 kilowatt-hours of electricity to produce one cubic meter (264 gallons) of drinkable water.

The good news is that saving energy saves water, and saving water saves energy.  We are now really developing other options for conservation and efficiency regarding water and energy use which is essential to meet our new and ongoing needs.

And You can help too. Try out this great little Water Footprint Calculator and see if you can make an energy and water cost difference today in your little piece of the world.



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