Monday, April 04, 2016

All was lost for want of ... water

I worry that I blog on way too many topics.  I worry because while I am a polymath wannabe, I am at best a dilettante.  There is, therefore, the nagging worry that it is only a matter of time before the world sniffs out this fake.  

But then, every once in a while something happens just enough to boost my ego.  It happened today too, which means I can rest easy for a while ;)

What happened today?  I read this in my favorite newspaper from the old country:
The Ganga that has nourished the Indian civilisation for centuries has recorded a historically low inflow in its lower reaches this year, going by the evidence on the ground. The inflow at the Farakka barrage in West Bengal nearly halved, compared with the quantum of water available in the last two years. The NTPC’s plant beside the barrage had to shut operations from March 10.
An NTPC plant shutting down?
Readings showed that the water level in the canal connecting the river to the plant was going down rapidly. Water is used to produce steam to run the turbines and for cooling vital equipment of coal-fired power stations.
By next day, authorities were forced to suspend generation at the 2,300-megawatt plant in Farakka town causing shortages in India's power grid. Next, the vast township on the river, where more than 1,000 families of plant workers live, ran out of water. Thousands of bottles of packaged drinking water were distributed to residents, and fire engines rushed to the river to extract water for cooking and cleaning.
Unprecedented.

What's the connection between a coal-fired power plant and water?  As the Union of Concerned Scientists put it in the context of the US:
Coal-fired power plants, which produce almost half of the country’s electricity, have significant impacts on water quantity and quality in the United States. Water is used to extract, wash, and sometimes transport the coal; to cool the steam used to make electricity in the power plant; and to control pollution from the plant.  The acts of mining and burning coal, as well as dealing with the waste, also can have major effects on water quality.
A lot of water is needed.  When there was no water, the NTPC's coal fired plant had to close down.

So, back to me.  After all, the blog posts are always about me ;)  Why do I feel like I am not that much a fake after all?

Back in April 2009--yes, seven years ago--the newspaper  published an op-ed of mine, in which I wrote about the importance of water in energy production.  I wrote there that water is a lot more to be worried about than CO2:
This is but another incentive for us to explore alternative energy sources that do not impose additional demands on water, which will then also mean lesser reliance on coal. Water-constrained countries such as China, India and Israel ought to encourage innovation on this urgent issue.
At the same time, we here in the United States have a wonderful opportunity to use our research and development infrastructure to develop feasible and economical approaches that will ease the pressure on water resources, and thereby help the world.
After all, to borrow a water metaphor, we sink or sail together!
Of course, my worry that I am a fake is a waste of my time; after all, nobody cares about what I think anyway! ;)

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