(EnergyAsia, March 21 2014, Friday) — With its growing thirst for water, the energy sector looks set to raise its 15% share of global consumption of the resource in the coming years, said the International Energy Agency (IEA) highlighting its growing concern to mark World Water day on March 22.

In 2012, the IEA included a chapter on the energy sector’s growing demand for water for the first time in its World Energy Outlook report. It released that chapter for renewed discussion to focus planners’ attention on the energy sector’s  water challenges amid growing competition for the resource from rising populations around the world.

“Water availability is a growing concern for energy, and assessing the energy sector’s use of water is important in an increasingly water-constrained world,” said IEA executive director Maria van der Hoeven.

“The IEA’s in-depth analysis of the nexus of water and energy can help countries identify ways to use water most effectively and efficiently in energy production and consumption. Now the IEA is sharing that expertise with everyone.”

Water is critical for electricity generation as well as the extraction, transport and processing of fossil fuels, even the irrigation of crops that go into biofuels. Water shortages in India and the US, among other countries, have limited energy output in the past two years, while the heavy use of water in unconventional oil and gas production has generated considerable public concern.

With the world’s water needs continuing to grow, planners must make water an increasingly important criterion for assessing the viability of energy projects. In some regions, water constraints are already affecting the reliability of existing operations and adding to costs.

The IEA analysis draws on the WEO-2012’s central policy scenario to show that expanding power generation and biofuels output underpins an 85% increase in the amount consumed (the volume of water that is not returned to its source after use) through to 2035.

“Since water and energy are essential resources, we need to find ways to ensure that use of one does not limit access to the other.  As demand for both continues to increase, this will be a growing challenge and priority,” said Ms Van der Hoeven.