It’s hard to imagine competing with someone for water access in the U.S. today. It’s even harder to imagine competing with something, like a utility, for water in 2030. But an article in the Christian Science Monitor hinted at an energy-versus-water conflict in the Southwest that is likely to become more common.
Consider that power plants use three times as much water as households, and 150 coal-fired plants are slated for construction in the U.S. over the next 30 years. Those coal-fired plants will fuel changes to the climate system, which will in turn further impact the hydrological cycle.
Clearly, we need to scrutinize our use of coal-fired plants without carbon capture and sequestration. In the meantime, we have to sustain our energy supply. In part, that will involve smart biofuel production, an equally important contender for the water supply.
Add households and food production to the stress on water resources, and we’ve got our work carved out for us.
The decisions we make now will be literally as vital as water.