The International Energy Agency (IEA) said that the energy industry accounts for 15% of the world’s energy use.
In 2010, global water withdrawals for energy production were estimated at 583 billion cubic metres (bcm) of which water usage that was not returned to it’s source was 66 bcm or around 11%.
Water is a necessity for electricity generation, extraction, transport and processing of fossil fuels together with the irrigation of crops that go into fossil fuels.
Water shortages in India and the US, among other countries, have however limited energy output in the last two years while the “heavy use of water in unconventional oil and gas production has generated considerable public concern”, the IEA said.
Global water withdrawals for energy production reach 690bcm in 2035 in the New Policies Scenario, with growth slowing after 2020. Withdrawals in the Current Policies Scenario – which assumes no change in existing energy-related policies – continue to rise throughout the projection period, climbing to 790bcm in 2035.
The IEA’s 450 Scenario “sets out an energy pathway consistent with the goal of limiting the global increase in temperature to 2°C by limiting concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere to around 450 parts per million of CO2″.
Under this scenario, it could be less water-intensive – with withdrawals expected to reach only 600bcm in 2035 – with much more modest energy demand compared to the New Policies Scenario and a “marked shift in the power sector” away from coal-fired power plants and towards renewables.
It deploys technologies including nuclear power, carbon capture in power plants and conventional biofuels “whose high water use requirements must be taken into account when citing energy production facilities”, the IEA said.
Maria van der Hoeven, IEA Executive Director 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.
“Since water and energy are essential resources, we need to find ways to ensure that use of one does not limit access to the other. As demand for both continues to increase, this will be a growing challenge and priority.”
The World Bank also warned earlier this year that water shortages across the globe threatens the deployment of energy projects.