DOE eyes deeper study and assessment of impact of water-food-energy nexus

By Myrna M. Velasco –  February 15, 2017, 10:01 PM

from Manila Bulletin

The Department of Energy (DOE) is targeting to assess and study deeper the full impact of food-water-energy nexus; or what global experts would refer to as the “linkage of a thirsty triangle.”

Energy Secretary Alfonso G. Cusi said this was among the topics highlighted during the recently concluded discussions at the Asian Cooperation Dialogue (ACD) that he attended in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates last month.

“We are already having gradual steps on examining the linkage and impact of food-water-power nexus, but we still need to do a more comprehensive study on this,” he stressed.

Even the United Nations (UN) had acknowledged though that in many countries, policies focusing on the nexus are not even at starting point of discussions yet. Policies may have been tackled on bits-and-bobs at each sector, but the lacking piece in the puzzle, is collaborative discussions and harmonizing intersecting edicts for the nexus.

In a cycle, water both creates and consumes energy; while energy is also a significant water-consuming sector and could be a direct threat to drinking water supplies and the irrigation of farmlands. And to the experts, there is a third wheel that is equally important to this linkage: the food sector because agriculture has always been dominant in overall water use globally.

Hydropower alone, according to data, contributes about16-percent of electricity generation globally; plus water is used as coolant in thermal power plants. It could also strip carbon dioxide (CO2) from the flue gases of power facilities under the much-vaunted carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology application.

In extreme natural disasters like the 2011 Dai-ichi Fukusima nuclear tragedy in Japan, experts further grasped the ‘interdependency of water and energy’ – of which long-term impacts may have yet to be established through the lens of science.

Data from the UN-Water Assessment Program had shown that energy accounts for 15-percent of all water withdrawals globally. Overexploited aquifers or drying rivers and even decrease in water flows could affect the volume of power that can be generated from hydro plants; and they also impact adversely on oil and biofuels’ production because water is an essential component in the refining process. In areas where abundant shale gas plays had been found, threats of drought could turn into a nightmare because these unconventional gas-rich domains are really in need of a lot of water for extraction. The same goes for the proposed production of oil sands. The flip side is the deeper scrutiny being undertaken as to the impact of the “hydraulic fracturing or fracking” for shale gas which many experts suspect to have been posing risks of contaminating water tables.

Development of other renewable energy facilities, such as geothermal in water-scarce areas may also pose some problems, although engineers and scientists are espousing that technology advancements and adoption of best practices could address such dilemmas.