Water professionals enabling emission reductions 

How well water issues are managed will materially affect how far and fast greenhouse gas emissions can be reduced to help keep warming limited to 1.5 C. How can water sector professionals effectively enable emission reductions?

Hydropower provides one example of the links between water and emissions. The International Energy Agency has reported that in 2020, hydropower supplied one sixth of global electricity generation, making it the single largest source of low-carbon power – more than all other renewables combined, and advised that to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050, much more hydropower capacity would be needed (IEA).

Because of the effect of hydropower on the timing and scale of water flows downstream, any new or enhanced hydro schemes will affect water users and downstream communities and the environment. In most if not all countries, such schemes cannot progress without also managing the complex and often controversial trade-offs involved.

The use of hydrogen for liquid fuel also requires lots of water, with every litre of hydrogen consuming nine litres of water. Any new freshwater demand for this clean energy source will also affect water availability for other purposes and require governments to resolve the socioeconomic and environmental trade-offs.

Water managers and advisers have a key role to play in keeping the world under 1.5 degrees of warming by assisting governments to understand and work through such issues of competing needs for water and to implement the best overall solutions. For more on this opportunity, and what you can do, have a look at my article on Devex.

You can read more about water and climate issues in Water Policy Group’s Global Water Policy Report 2021: Listening to National Water Leaders. This report reveals the importance of climate risks from the perspective of water Ministers and top water officials from 88 countries from all regions.

IWA also invites you to discover the Climate Smart Utilities initiative, which aims to guide utilities in their mitigation and adaptation journey.

Anthony Slatyer

Water Policy & Governance Consultant, Water Policy Group