Water Hungry Coal

Greenpeace Africa's latest report 'Water Hungry Coal: Burning South Africa's water to produce electricity' will be released on the 17th of October.

South Africa is a water scarce country facing an impending water crisis. According to the National Water Act (Act no. 36 of 1998) the government, as trustee of the nation’s water resources, must allocate water equitably, and in the public interest. These allocation decisions are becoming more and more crucial against the backdrop of an impending water crisis, which makes transparency and accountability in the water sector even more important. However, there is a serious lack of transparency regarding the allocation of water, water management plans and water licences in South Africa. 

South Africa’s electricity utility is the country’s only strategic water user. This means that Eskom gets first priority in water use come hell or high water.

Ironically, burning coal to produce electricity is an incredibly water intensive process, with a number of serious implications for both water quantity and quality. In one second, Eskom uses the same amount of water as a single person would use within one year, based on access to the minimum 25 litres of water per day. This means that Eskom’s new coal-fired power stations will use substantial amounts of water, putting South Africa’s water resources at risk, and increasing the potential for future conflicts over water.

There are very effective alternatives to coal, but there are no alternatives to water.

This report builds on the earlier report ‘Coal’s hidden water cost for South Africa’ released in June.

The people of South Africa have a right to know how scarce water supplies are being allocated, used and polluted. The report highlights issues around lack of accountability and transparency in the water and electricity sector as a result of Eskom’s coal addiction, and the country’s coal expansion. In addition, the report finds that implementing an Energy [R]evolution and shifting away from coal towards renewable energy and energy efficiency would save substantial amounts of scarce water.


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