How South Africa’s biggest electricity company is crippling its people’s water

by Michael Baillie

October 17, 2012

Coal-fired electricity is a major threat to South Africas already stressed water resources and Eskoms new mega coal plants are set to make matters even worse.

Luckily there are reliable alternatives to coal power, ways of generating electricity that don’t risk the country’s water security, or pollute our water supplies.

Coal can be replaced, water can’t.

A new reportby Greenpeace Africa makes clear connections between coal power and water scarcity, outlining how the South African government and Eskom are making disastrous choices in favour of coal expansion. These energy choices come at the expense of scarce water resources, peoples heath, and affordable electricity.

Eskom uses just overa staggering 10 000 litres of water a second, the same amount a single person would use in one year. The utilitys reckless investment in new coal-fired power stations clearly puts South Africas scarce water supplies at risk, said Melita Steele, climate and energy campaigner for Greenpeace Africa.

Due to growing water shortages, competition for water is likely to increase between the agricultural, electricity, and residential sectors. This could lead to conflicts over water.According to researchconducted by the Water Research Commission, water scarcity is already leading to service delivery protests in the country. With as much as 98% of South Africas water already allocated, the question is: where will the water for Eskoms new coal-fired power stations come from?

“Water is not just an environmental issue, it is a critical constraint to future development, and it is a fundamental issue at the heart of justice, economics, and human rights added Steele.

South Africa is facing huge political decisions around the allocation of water. If investments were shifted to essentially water-free renewable energy technologies and energy efficiency, this would drastically reduce the water required for electricity generation, deliver sustainable electricity to all South Africans,create jobs, and help avoid water insecurity and conflict.

For more infographics about the hidden water costs of Eskom’s coal power,click here.

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