By Leon Awerbuch

For the fourth consecutive year, the International Desalination Association (IDA) supported the Water Leaders Summit at Singapore International Water Week. This by-invitation only annual meeting, which took place in July, brought together ministers, mayors, senior government officials, global water industry leaders, heads of international organizations, leading researchers and practitioners to consider pressing water governance, technology and business issues that impact communities worldwide. IDA was one of the driving forces behind creation of the Water Leaders Summit and has continued to support it each year as a Strategic Partner. The 2011 Water Leaders Summit program included the Water Conversation, a Ministers’ plenary session, a roundtable and Parallel Summit Workshops. The Water Leaders Roundtable included several prominent speakers, among them Andrew Grant, Director, McKinsey & Company; Dr. Peter Gleick, President, Pacific Institute; Professor Alex Zehnder, Director, Alberta Water Research Institute; Thamer S. Al-Sharhan, President & CEO, Marafiq Power and Water Utility Company and Dr. Lukas Loeffler, CEO, Siemens Water Technologies. At the Water Conversation, Mr Lee Hsien Loong, Prime Minister of Singapore, shared his views on imminent water issues and challenges, and engaged in an interactive dialogue with the audience. The session was moderated by Professor Tommy Koh, Ambassador-at-large, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Singapore and the Summit Chairperson.

Water and energy are intimately linked in all phases of their existence with important implications for technology development goals and programs. The production of energy requires large volumes of water while the treatment and distribution of water (and particularly generation of fresh water by desalination) is equally dependent upon readily available, low-cost and efficient use of energy. It is critically important that water and energy issues be viewed and managed in a holistic way. With rapid urbanization, increasing population and economic growth, the world is facing an unprecedented increase in the demands for resources and critical strategic choices in the water and energy sectors. The continued security, health, economic development and environment of the nations depend on a sustainable supply of both energy and water. These two critical natural resources – water and energy – are inextricably linked and interconnected.

Water and energy are interdependent. Water is an integral element of energy resource development and utilization. It is used in energy-resource extraction, refining and processing. Water is also an integral part of electric-power generation. In fact, throughout the world, demand for energy and water is increasing. Competition for these resources is escalating and sustaining ready access to water and energy has become a social, economic and political imperative. Historically, energy and water issues have been examined and managed separately. While technology has improved remarkably to offer more alternative water solutions such as water reuse and low-energy desalination, much more can be done. There are also enormous business possibilities to be explored through water and energy efficiency, providing a great incentive for their development by the public and private sectors.

Some of the key issues and questions with respect to the Water-Energy Nexus, were discussed at the Water Leaders Roundtable. The roundtable session was precisely 90 minutes, including vivid discussion with the panelists and an open, animated and motivating dialogue with the delegates. Questions covered the inherent differences and lack of communication between the two sectors; insufficient integration of water and energy planning; increasing energy demand in non-traditional water treatment and the used water sector, and competition for water by renewable and emerging energy resources.

One of the session conclusions was that through R&D and innovative solutions, the industry can also help to maximize water-energy efficiency by exploring untapped opportunities, waste heat utilization, membrane technology, use of degraded and non-traditional water sources for electricity generation facilities or designing creative planning and modeling tools to manage water and energy.

The session was fully videotaped and televised. It created opportunities to present IDA’s vision that desalination is as a critical part of the solution to address the world’s water problems, and that we advocate its use as a socially and environmentally responsible, reliable and sustainable source of fresh water in all parts of the globe. IDA supports the development of technological solutions that lower costs and reduce energy requirements.

About the author

Leon Awerbuch, Chairman of IDA Technical Programs and President and CTO of Leading Edge Technologies Inc., moderated the Water Leaders Roundtable, a panel of distinguished speakers at the opening technical session of The Water Leaders Summit 2011 of Singapore International Water Week (SIWW).

About the organization

IDA is the leading global organization dedicated to desalination, desalination technology and water reuse. The hub of expertise, news and information, and professional development for the worldwide desalination industry, IDA serves more than 2,400 core members from 60 countries and reaches an additional 4,000 members from its worldwide network of affiliate organizations. IDA is committed to development and promotion of the appropriate use of desalination and desalination technology globally in water supply, water reuse, water pollution control, water purification, water treatment and other water sciences and technology. An NGO of the United Nations, IDA carries out this mission by encouraging research, promoting and exchanging communication, disseminating information, and supporting education in the field of desalination and water sciences.

Images: Courtesy of Singapore International Water Week



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