India and South Africa continue to face threat of water scarcity

A thermal power plant in India. Soon, they will increasingly stiff competition from other sectors as well

Water scarcity may be a term bandied around increasingly often, but it is now a very real threat to two nations standing at the forefront of efforts to reduce climate change: India and South Africa.

And this threat will not come around with the same tragically familiar story of shortened lives, stunted crops, and extreme and unpredictable weather. Instead, this story is one of industrial development, urban life, and continuous efforts to eradicate poverty.

Presently, over 80 per cent of electricity in India is generated in thermal power stations, where coal, gas, nuclear fuel, and oil are burned. But according to the Climate News Network, researchers from the World Resources Institute (WRI), based in the United States (U.S.), who had analysed all of the thermal power plants in India – more than 400 of them – reported that the nation’s power supply was increasingly at danger from water shortages.

In India, between 2015 and 2050, the power industry’s share of national water consumption is expected to grow from 1.4 per cent to nine per cent, with an estimated 70 per cent of thermal power plants in the country likely to face stiff competition for water from municipalities, industry, and agriculture by 2030.

The researchers found that around 90 per cent of thermal power plants in India were cooled with freshwater, with almost 40 per cent of them experiencing high water stress. And while India continues to stand by its commitment to supply every household with electricity by 2019, the plants are becoming increasingly vulnerable.

“Water shortages shut down power plants across India every year,” O P Agarwal from WRI India said to the Climate News Network. “When power plants rely on water sourced from scarce regions, they put electricity generation at risk and leave less water for cities, farms and families. Without urgent action, water will become a chokepoint for India’s power sector.”

Already, according to a report published by the WRI, 14 of the 20 largest thermal utility companies in India have witnessed one or more shutdowns due to water shortages, leading to the estimate that it caused them to lose more than INR 91 billion (US$1.4 billion) in revenue between 2013 and 2016. In addition, water shortages cost the nation around 20 per cent of growth in terms of electricity generation between 2015 and 2016.

The report from the WRI, however, also offers solutions, such as generating power from renewables. Thus far, India plans to generate 40 per cent of its power from renewables under the Paris Agreement on climate change by 2030. Additionally, the report also gives suggestions on how India power sector can lower water usage as well as carbon emissions by 2030.

“Renewable energy is a viable solution to India’s water-energy crisis,” Deepak Krishnan, co-author of the report, explained. “Solar PV and wind power can thrive in the same water-stressed areas where thermal plants struggle.”


Cape Town, South Africa is currently facing a severe threat of water scarcity, where it may be the first major city in the world to run out of water

In Cape Town, South Africa, on the other hand, the threat of water scarcity has reach almost apocalyptic levels, with the city facing the likelihood of becoming the very first major metropolis in the world to run out of water.

Presently, a person has a daily ration of 87 litres, and after ‘Day Zero’, which is set to happen on the 12th of April, Cape Town will completely turn off the taps, lower water rations to 25 litres per person, and install 200 water collection sites across the city.

The premier of the Western Cape Province, Helen Zille, even wrote to the Daily Maverick that the situation is such that “the challenge exceeds anything a major city has had to face anywhere in the world since the Second World War or 9/11.”


Source: Climate News Network, the Daily Maverick