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New studies suggest there will be a worldwide water shortage by 2040

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Cheryl Santa Maria
Digital Reporter

Wednesday, July 30, 2014, 7:53 PM - Two separate studies and three years of research suggest there won't be enough water to hydrate the Earth's population while sustaining current energy and power solutions by the time 2040 rolls around, according to a press release issued Tuesday by Denmark's Aarhaus University.

"In most countries, electricity is the biggest source of water consumption because the power plants need cooling cycles in order to function," the university says in the release.

"The only energy systems that do not require cooling cycles are wind and solar systems, and therefore one of the primary recommendations issued by these researchers is to replace old power systems with more sustainable wind and solar systems."

The studies -- a joint effort by Aarhus University, Vermont Law School and CNA Corporation in the U.S. -- argues that if current practices are maintained, between 30 and 40 percent of the world's population could begin to experience water shortages by as early as 2020.


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"It's a huge problem that the electricity sector do not even realise how much water they actually consume. And together with the fact that we do not have unlimited water resources, it could lead to a serious crisis if nobody acts on it soon," says Professor Benjamin Sovacool from Aarhus University in a statement.

"We'll have to decide where we spend our water in the future. Do we want to spend it on keeping the power plants going or as drinking water? We don't have enough water to do both," Professor Sovacool adds.

IMPROVING EFFICIENCY

The reports identify six recommendations that may help mitigate a potential water crisis.

  • Improve energy efficiency
  • Better research on alternative cooling cycles
  • Registering how much water power plants use
  • Massive investments in wind energy
  • Massive investments in solar energy
  • Abandon fossil fuel facilities in all water stressed places 

Researchers combined water shortage projections and world population data to draw their conclusions. They focused on four separate case studies from the U.S., France, India and China and made projections as far into the future as 2040.

The team says the findings were "surprising."

"If we keep doing business as usual, we are facing an insurmountable water shortage – even if water was free, because it's not a matter of the price. There will no water by 2040 if we keep doing what we're doing today. There's no time to waste. We need to act now," Sovacool says.

More information on the reports can be found on the CNA website.

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