The global energy sector accounts for 15 per cent of the world’s water usage,  and will use more by 2035, reports the Paris-based International Energy Agency (IEA), which has released findings for the water-for-energy relationship for the first time.

In the run-up to World Water Day on March 22, the organisation, which represents 28 member states including the US, UK and Japan, has reviewed water needs for different energy sources from coal to bioenergy in its World Energy Outlook 2012 report.

The findings show that the global energy industry uses 580 billion cubic metres of freshwater, or 15 per cent of the world’s total water withdrawal, second only to the agricultural sector.

This withdrawal figure is expected to rise by 20 per cent by 2035 while the amount consumed (not returned directly to the environment) increases by 85 per cent.

The report highlights coal, nuclear and biofuels as the power generation types that withdraw most water.

Maria van der Hoeven, executive director of IEA, said: “Water availability is a growing concern for energy, and assessing the energy sector’s use of water is important in an increasingly water-constrained world.”

“The IEA’s in-depth analysis of the nexus of water and energy can help countries identify ways to use water most effectively and efficiently in energy production and consumption. Now the IEA is sharing that expertise with everyone.”

For the energy sector, water constraints are a challenge to maintaining existing operations.

The report cites the example of a two-day blackout in India because of delayed monsoon rains reducing hydropower output.

To download the findings, click here.

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