“Water, water, everywhere …” (The Ancient Mariner)
As France shivers and soaks in July 2011 (!), I am reminded that a French President once said, looking at a flooded landscape near Toulouse (1875) « Que d’eau, que d’eau ! » The river in question was the Garonne (4th in France, just before the Seine) [Rhine – 2 200 cu.m/s; Rhone – 1 700, Loire - 650; Garonne – 630, Seine – 400], all chicken-feed when compared with the 8 at top of the charts: Amazon - 150 000 Congo – 41 000, Huang Ho Yang (Yellow River) - 34 000, Itych – 34 000, Yang Tse Kiang (Blue River) – 22 000, Missouri - 18 400, Lena 16 000, Ob – 12 000 and Amour – 11 000.
So, let me concentrate for a minute on the top 3 rivers in France that are not frontiers –Rhone, Loire and Garonne – they have a total estuary outflow of 2 980 cu.m/s or 10.7 Mcu.m/h or 257.5 M/day or 94 bcu.m /yr. Now I add a touch of imagination and suppose we could recover some 20% of this unsalted water, i.e., 20 billion cu.m/yr. How is another question, but I don’t think an extra 3 nuclear stations on their estuaries, to be used to pump the water back inland would be out of order in an ambitious water reclaim programme. I see a future H20 grid criss-crossing Europe to meet the hydric shortfalls of the future. Ocean water (plentiful) of course can be used, but there is the salt content and we know that desalination, although perfectly feasible, costs a packet.
The flow rates above are after France has already extracted nearly 31.6 billion cu.m (80 % from rivers and lakes, 20% from underground sources) but to be exact here only 6 are really “consumed” and do not return to Nature as liquid effluents. So 25.6 do in fact “return” to the sea (over 80%).
So where, you may wonder, does the consumed water go? Answers, cf. yr.2007 the French Water Agency – 50% (3 b.cu.m) are used for crop irrigation, absorbed by plants or evaporating; we drink, cook, bathe in 24%, we use 23% for energy production (ex. The totally inoffensive water vapour produced by nuclear power plant cooling systems and that the media love to film) and only 3% in industry (of 10% total, some 7% are incorporated in products).
We all know that the next big resource crunch is going to be access to healthy water, to the point that the United nations declared July 28, 2010 “Access to clean water and sanitation is a human right” while the UN Millennium Development Goal (MDG) 7C states: “Halve, by 2015, the proportion of the population without sustainable access to safe drinking water and basic sanitation”. The Academies of Science of the G8+ countries stressed at their March 24-25 meeting in Paris this year that “accessibility, quality and protection of water resources are fundamental to human health in rural and urban areas worldwide. …/… Furthermore, through population growth, increasing pollution and climate change, water as a resource will become scarcer: it is estimated that around 3 billion people will be living in water-scarce countries by 2050. Today, almost 900 million people lack access to a clean water supply, with 2.6 billion people lacking proper sanitation: the direct and indirect effects of a lack of clean water and sanitation are profound. …/… “
As we cover our hill-tops with wind turbines, and huff and puff ourselves greener than green for this light-density alternate fluky energy, I saw the 45 year celebration for our River Rance Tidal machine. There are 24 turbine +10 MW alternators, that use both river flow and tidal effects to produce 500 GW/yr (main source of electrical power for Brittany), for an on-line availability factor of 25%, dependent on tidal coefficients and timetables. The cost, 12 cents € per kWh compared with straight nuclear at 3 cents €/h (outwith initial infrastructure outlay).
Next stop? Bay of Fundy, Labrador? No, I’ll stick with Green Galway, Green Ireland, it just rains there !! No need for ice in the wh...!!
Cheers to all my energy-intensive friends, I'll read it all when I get back ...
Alan in Paris