Water impacts and water-climate goal conflicts of local energy choices – notes from a Swedish perspective

Engström, Rebecka Ericsdotter; Howells, Mark; Destouni, Georgia

To meet both the Paris Agreement on Climate Change and the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), nations, sectors, counties and cities need to move towards a sustainable energy system in the next couple of decades. Such energy system transformations will impact water resources to varying extents, depending on the transformation strategy and fuel choices. Sweden is considered to be one of the most advanced countries towards meeting the SDGs. This paper explores the geographical origin of and the current water use associated with the supply of energy in the 21 regional counties of Sweden. These energy-related uses of water represent indirect, but still relevant, impacts for water management and the related SDG on clean water and sanitation (SDG 6). These indirect water impacts are here quantified and compared to reported quantifications of direct local water use, as well as to reported greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, as one example of other types of environmental impacts of local energy choices in each county. For each county, an accounting model is set up based on data for the local energy use in year 2010, and the specific geographical origins and water use associated with these locally used energy carriers (fuels, heat and electricity) are further estimated and mapped based on data reported in the literature and open databases. Results show that most of the water use associated with the local Swedish energy use occurs outside of Sweden. Counties with large shares of liquid biofuel exhibit the largest associated indirect water use in regions outside of Sweden. This indirect water use for energy supply does not unambiguously correlate with either the local direct water use or the local GHG emissions, although for the latter, there is a tendency towards an inverse relation. Overall, the results imply that actions for mitigation of climate change by local energy choices may significantly affect water resources elsewhere. Swedish counties are thus important examples of localities with large geographic zones of water influence due to their local energy choices, which may compromise water security and the possibility to meet water-related global goals in other world regions.

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Engström, Rebecka Ericsdotter / Howells, Mark / Destouni, Georgia: Water impacts and water-climate goal conflicts of local energy choices – notes from a Swedish perspective. 2018. Copernicus Publications.

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