15 January 2013, 15:55

Real and virtual water

Real and virtual water

Delegations from 150 countries have arrived in the United Arab Emirates’ capital Abu Dhabi, where two international summits will be held between January 15 and January 17. High on the agenda will be water-related problems and energy, topics that organizers say will be closely intertwined.

Water is needed to generate energy, which, in turn, contributes considerably to processes pertaining to purification, transportation and supply of water. Alexei Kokorin, head of WWF Russia’s climate program, underscores the necessity of taking more steps to find an optimal economic balance between energy expenditure and water-related processes.

"Water and energy are closely intertwined in modern-day world, Kokorin says. Suffice it to mention a number of countries, where water demineralization consumes large amounts of energy. On the other hand, energy is a main source of greenhouse gas emissions which add significantly to climate change. This, in turn, contributes to freshwater shortages in many countries," Kokorin concludes.

According to international surveys, at least 40 percent of the world’s population currently suffer from water scarcity. By 2025, two-thirds of the world’s population will be living in areas of medium or high water stress. The ongoing desertification may ride roughshod over water sources in Africa and Central Asia, says Alexander Korshenko, of the State Institute of Oceanography in Moscow.

"Transporting water there is a very expensive process which is why people will start fleeing to areas where water is still in place, Korshenko says. In the next few years, redistribution of accessible water resources may change both economic and political map of the world."

Russia’s water resources are the world’s second-largest after Brazil. At the same time, experts point to water deficiency in Russia’s central and southern regions during periods of low stream flow, a problem that they say may even affect Russia’s national security. In this regard, waste water purification remains a key priority, experts say, referring to Russia’s water strategy for the period up to 2020. The document specifically stipulates slapping hefty fines for water pollution offences.

Mikhail Bologov, deputy head of the Moscow-based Institute of Water Problems, mentions another strategic area related to water industry optimization

"On the one hand, Bologov says, we should preserve water resources, and on the other – we need to move ‘wet’ industries to areas with abundant water resources. The main thing is to provide a balanced use of water resources in the economy which should,in turn, be taken into consideration on energy, agrarian and territorial schemes of planning."

Earlier, the UN General Assembly proclaimed 2013 International Year of Water Cooperation, a topic that will top the agenda of the Abu Dhabi summits. Taking part in the gatherings are prominent water experts, politicians, scientists, businessmen and investors. An international exhibition is to open during the summits and will present latest achievements and innovations in the field of water technologies.

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