Water utilities around the world are facing unprecedented challenges as climate change worsens, resulting in more frequent and severe droughts, floods, heat waves and other extreme weather events. At the same time, the current global energy crisis has further weakened world economies. In particular, the energy crisis has significant ramifications for water utilities, as they require energy for both drinking water production and waste treatment processes. In turn, energy production also uses water, in varying proportions depending on the type of energy generated. The close link between water and energy is therefore evident, and this nexus is made even more apparent by the need to shift towards renewable energy sources. On the one hand, the water sector is a significant contributor to greenhouse gas emissions and should contribute to efforts towards carbon neutrality; on the other hand, improving energy efficiency, recovering energy from water and wastewater processes, and transitioning to renewable energy sources will improve cost recovery and allow service providers to improve service quality and reach.
From a water sector perspective, the energy issue appears to present three main challenges: 1) limited access to finance to support investments in energy efficiency and renewable energy generation, 2) governance conditions that sometimes do not ensure effective synergies with the energy sector, and 3) knowledge and capacity gap when it comes to effective technical solutions given that water operators’ primary job is not to produce energy. While these challenges are common across many geographies, the concrete practical solutions to address them vary considerably from context to context depending on the local level of infrastructure, access to resources and governance arrangements.
This session will reflect on which challenges are common and which are context-specific, and explore the role of actors at different levels to improve the resilience and sustainability of water through an energy lens.