Greenhouse-gas emissions from energy use in the water sector


Water management faces great challenges over the coming decades. Pressures include stricter water-quality standards, increasing demand for water and the need to adapt to climate change, while reducing emissions of greenhouse gases. The processes of abstraction, conveyance and treatment of fresh water and wastewater all demand energy. Energy use in the water sector is growing, yet its importance is under-recognized, and gaps remain in our knowledge. Here we define the need to integrate energy use further into water resource management and identify opportunities for the water sector to understand and describe more effectively its role in greenhouse-gas emissions.

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Figure 1: A conceptual model of water-sector processes involving energy use.
Figure 2: Distribution of carbon emissions from energy use in the US water sector (%).
Figure 3: Water flow and greenhouse-gas emissions from the UK water sector, 2005–06.
Figure 4: Freshwater withdrawals by sector in 2000 (%).
Figure 5: Overview of factors affecting energy use for groundwater irrigation.
Figure 6: Energy use for irrigation.


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The review was conducted as part of a project funded by the UK Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs: ADMIT—Harmonising adaptation and mitigation for agriculture and water in China (Grant No. D00383, D.C. was partly supported through a Department for International Development Senior Research Fellow's position and a visiting fellowship to the Australian National Climate Change Adaptation Research Facility. We thank A. Milman for providing additional literature for this review. The views expressed are those of the authors and do not represent official policy of DEFRA, DFID or the UK Government.

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Correspondence to Sabrina G. S. A. Rothausen or Declan Conway.

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Rothausen, S., Conway, D. Greenhouse-gas emissions from energy use in the water sector. Nature Clim Change 1, 210–219 (2011).

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