The water-energy nexus in the context of climate change

Client: Water Research Commission

Period: August 2013 – November 2015

Project leader: Amos Madhlopa

Project team: Mascha Moorlach, Debbie Sparks, Samantha Keen and Amos Madhlopa; with Guy Pegram and Siyasanga Sauks from Pegasys

South Africa is an arid country, where water supply is often from a distant source. There is also increasing pressure on the limited water resources due to economic and population growth, with a concomitant increase in the energy requirement for water production. This problem will be exacerbated by the onset of climate change. Nevertheless, water providers in South Africa are not compelled to assess energy consumption and the carbon footprint of water production and distribution in spite of the growing concerns about the increase in greenhouse gas emissions as a result of the intense use of fossil fuels for energy supply.

Energy requirements in the water sector need to be properly examined to establish the overall carbon footprint of the water supply chain inSouth Africa . Several alternatives to the energy-intensive water supply chain do exist, including the use of renewable energy sources and local waste-water re-use. However, the impact of deploying renewable energy technologies on water resources need to be considered properly. Some issues require scrutiny in order to understand the water footprint of renewable energy production in South Africa . For example, to allocate water for biofuel production will require a shift in the current water allocation policy.  Due to the large gap that exists between water supply and demand, trade-offs in water allocation amongst different users and policy makers are critical.

Collaboration: Pegasys

Objectives: The main objective of this project is to investigate trade-offs between water use efficiency and renewable energy in South Africa .

Methodology: Data collections through desktop, structured questionnaires, expert interviews and workshops.

Outputs: 10 research reports and 2 workshops