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Stockholm indaba discusses energy, water

AN exhibition centre at the 2014 World Water Week conference that took place in Stockholm, Sweden, recently. - Picture by DOREEN NAWA.

The relationship between energy and water is usually not looked at as being critical to enhanced poverty reduction in communities if well managed. This is why experts from different parts of the world recently met in Stockholm, Sweden, to discuss the matter. Our staffer, DOREEN NAWA, attended the conference. She now reports.
GLOBAL experts on energy, water and environment recently convened in Stockholm, Sweden, to look at the plausible means of bridging the gap between water and energy.
Held from August 30 to September 6 this year, the 24th annual World Water Week conference underscored the role that energy can play in improving access to clean water and help enhance food security.
The conference, held under the theme ‘Energy and Water,’ mainly focused on the relationship between energy, water and food.
“How can you reduce poverty in a world without access to energy?” asked special representative to the United Nations (UN) Secretary General and Sustainable Energy for All chief executive officer Kandeh Yumkella.
“It is impossible and that is why we have been trying so hard to get global leaders to realise that energy has to be central to sustainable development. For us, this is the first step; to accept that energy is the ultimate enabler for food security, access to clean water and women empowerment,” Dr Yumkella said.
About 3,000 delegates attended the six-day gathering.
According to Dr Yumkella, water and energy are interdependent but the challenge is how to supply sustainable energy without exhausting the limited global water resources.
Whereas energy is required for pumping water, treating and transporting it, water is needed for producing almost all forms of energy.
Calling for the global community’s attention to the water and energy interdependence, Dr Yumkella noted that “as global demand for energy and water increases, we must think about the way we produce and use both [resources] to ensure shared prosperity for all citizens, protect the environment, achieve socio-economic development and secure peace and stability.”
Dr Yumkella also said energy and water challenges will be further exacerbated by the growing influence of climate change, particularly on the demand and supply chains of these natural resources.
“If business as usual continues, everyone will suffer in ‘climate hell,” he said.
Delegates to the conference from various countries around the world urged energy and water experts to work together to highlight the critical link between energy and water as it relates to socio-economic development.
Given that energy and water are interdependent, experts noted that by 2035, energy consumption will increase by 35 percent which will in turn, upsurge water consumption by 85 percent.
Representing Zambia’s Ministry of Local Government and Housing, Vernon Ngulube said those who do not have energy are the same people without access to water and sanitation, a group of citizens which experts at the conference dubbed the “bottom billion.”
“The situation is the same the world over, especially in developing countries. The poor lack both energy and water access,” Mr Ngulube said.
Of the seven billion people on earth today, reports estimate that 2.5 billion of them have unreliable or no access at all to electricity while 2.8 billion live in areas of high water stress.
The 1.3 billion who completely lack access to electricity often rely on traditional sources of energy such as coal, wood and animal waste for cooking and heating purposes, and kerosene or candles for lighting. Another 768 million people remain without access to improved sources of water.
“With the global demand for water projected to rise, there is need for closer relations between energy and water communities if we are to provide solutions for all peoples to prosper,” Torny Holmgren, the Stockholm International Water Institute executive director, said.
Summing up deliberations of the 2014 World Water Week conference, the delegates stressed the importance of a Millennium Development Goal on water, as well as the integration of energy and water in the post-2015 development agenda.
The conference also established that efficiency in the supply and use of water is one of the main tools in combatting poverty and hunger.
“To counter the challenge of the rising water demand, we must manage it in a far smarter way. It concerns our lives and our livelihoods. In five years, I want us all in our daily lives to be as aware of water efficiency as we are of energy efficiency today,” Mr Holmgren said.
Earlier, some of world’s leading water, environment and resilience specialists, called for better management of rain water as this is the only way hunger and poverty can be eradicated.
Without improved rain water management, the future development goals currently being discussed are unrealistic, according to the experts.
During the conference, several prizes were awarded to various deserving entities for excellence in water related issues.
The Stockholm Industry Water award went to eThekwini Water and Sanitation that serves the Durban metropolitan area in South Africa, for its transformative and inclusive approach to providing water and sanitation.
Canada’s Hayley Todesco received the Stockholm Junior Water Prize for inventing a method that uses sand filters to treat contaminated water and recover it for reuse.
South Africa’s John Briscoe scooped the prestigious Stockholm Water Prize, for his unparalleled contributions to global and local water management, inspired by an unwavering commitment to improving the lives of grassroots people.
Although the energy and water sectors are distinct, they are closely linked. A lot of water is, for instance, used to produce biofuel and hydropower. Energy, on the other hand, is needed for treating and transporting water.
Despite these interdependencies, there are communication challenges such that although the two sectors speak the same language, they have different interpretations.
The energy sector is global, with many international private companies while the water division is mainly run by public companies at local or municipal levels.

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