We spoke with Shahid Chaudhry, Water-Energy Efficiency Program Manager at the California Energy Commission about water and why he is participating at TechConnect World.
Q: What do you think are the greatest challenges facing society today with respect to water?
“The challenge with water is not that it’s not in abundance. We have plenty of water on earth—1,400 million cubic kilometers of water, and that’s a lot of water. The real challenge is that water we could use right away without treatment or minimal treatment is very scarce. Less than 3% of the total water is fresh water; out of that 3%; 75% is in the form of glaciers, ice and snow. In that context, water we can use right away with little treatment or no treatment is very minimal.” Shahid explains, “Over the time, this water scarcity has become a 2-edged sword; on one side the demand of water is increasing and on the other hand the quality of existing fresh water is degrading due to an increasing population and our more complicated life styles.”
Another factor coming into the picture quickly is Climate Change impacts on the water supply and demand. Shahid talks about the unpredictability of climate change impacts, but they are on the horizon, “how it will impact water resources is something which we haven’t figured out completely yet.”
In Shahid’s opinion there are three challenges, “1) how to use and manage existing water resources in a sustainable fashion, 2) how to evaluate and establish the impacts of Climate Change on water resources and how to mitigate those impacts, and 3) developing a technology which is really robust in terms of environmental impacts, energy efficiency, and cost effectiveness.”
Q: Is the technology enough to solve these challenges? If so, what technologies would create drastic change? If not, what else is required?
Shahid believes the technology is there, but states, “the question really is;
are those technologies really robust, really energy efficient, cost effective; and are they environmentally friendly?” At the same time he doesn’t see any technology, which can meet all of those criteria. As far as water treatment technology, he goes on to say “we have a lot of hopes with desalination technology, but still a long way to go before it meets the above criteria. Thus, there’s a need to keep on researching and demonstrating new technologies, so we meet the water challenges of tomorrow.” Shahid believes it’s a two-pronged approach to solving today’s challenges, “we should keep working with existing technologies to make them more energy efficient and cost effective and at the same time we should keep investing more dollars to help research and development of new technologies”.
Q: Describe the work you do on/with water.
A: “The CEC provides a huge sum of funding for R&D of new and innovative energy technologies; and water is one of the programs under this umbrella. My particular role at the commission is to provide technical assistance in identifying energy conservation and efficiency opportunities mainly at the existing water and wastewater utilities. Due to historically conservative nature of these utilities, as their primary focus is to provide reliable service to their consumers, it is an uphill battle to change their mind set. However, energy is the 2nd biggest expense at these utilities after labor, and thus provides ample opportunities to reduce energy expenses. He said “once these energy saving opportunities are identified, utilities are encouraged to implement these to reduce their operational costs. it doesn’t matter if they use funding from their internal sources or if they get funding from a 3rd party; the bottom line is to implement measures to reduce energy use, lower the operational costs, and reduce GHG emissions. In case, the utilities don’t have financial resources to implement energy measures, the Energy Commission provides them low interest loans. The utilities use energy cost savings to refund these loans. ”
Q: What are your goals in attending TechConnect World, and why have you agreed to participate?
“To stay abreast on the industry needs and technological developments to address energy challenges in the sector, it is important to stay in touch both with the utilities to learn and understand existing and emerging challenges as well as the technology developers and solutions providers on continuous basis through networking and attending conferences, meetings, workshops, etc. Interacting with the industry peers also helps in knowing how to channel our funding. In this context, TechConnect World provides a great forum to connect with industry peers, exchanging ideas and learning from each other.”
The comments in this article are of solely his personal views and don’t reflect CEC’s views at all in any way.