WASHINGTON, March 29 (UPI) -- Rising U.S. water usage is worrying experts who will gather April 15 at this year's intelligent water summit in Washington.
Ironically, water consumption has risen because of the drive toward renewable energy. Solar power generation consumes huge quantities of water, as does production of other forms of energy.
Despite educational programs and official exhortations, waste remains a major issue in water usage for landscaping and gardens, experts who are to attend the summit said ahead of the meeting.
While inefficient use of sprinklers and other devices for landscaping and gardening is an old problem, federal land managers have raised concerns that some types of solar energy projects in the western United States consume far too much water.
The Bureau of Land Management recently warned Nevada officials it wasn't in the public interest to go ahead with solar energy plants that used water-cooled components to produce electricity under the state's abundant sunshine.
Power generation companies favor the water-cooled solar electric plants because they are the most cost-efficient while air-cooled plants use 90 percent less water but are far more expensive to run.
The problem is worse in Arizona, where there are greater pressures on available water resources outside the state's urban centers.
Added to the emerging correlation between solar power generation and water resources is the industry prognosis that solar plants are here to stay, while all traditional projects dependent on hydrocarbon resources eventually will run out of the fuel and shut down, as has happened with coalmines, analysts said.
Rain Bird, the water efficiency company behind the summit, said a global audience of media and consumers will be able to view and participate in the Intelligent Use of Water Summit: State of the Union via a live streaming webcast from the Smithsonian Institution.
The summit will examine water conservation policies and legislation, programs, initiatives and trends that ultimately steer city and statewide efforts to reduce outdoor water waste.
In a widely publicized World Water Day column last week, "Why business needs to worry," Nestle Chairman Peter Brabeck-Letmanthe said global water requirements will be 40 percent greater than what can currently be sustainably supplied.
"While the world is rightly moving to address the challenges presented by climate change and depleting supplies of fossil fuels, the same awareness and consensus does not exist when it comes to addressing our usage of water. Yet the harsh fact is that we will probably run out of water long before we run out of fuel," he said.
The 2030 Water Resources Group predicts that industrial use of water will almost double by 2030. It currently accounts for 16 percent of total usage, more than half of it for energy production, and this will grow to a projected 22 percent by 2030 with China alone accounting for 40 percent of the additional demand.
"The challenge facing governments, businesses and -- arguably -- all of us, is how to close the gap in supply in a way that is both environmentally sustainable and economically viable. At the moment we are coping by 'borrowing' water supplies from non-replenishable aquifers or from water reserved for environmental needs, an approach which is clearly not a long-term solution," said Brabeck-Letmanthe.
He said water shortages are more pressing than climate change, something not yet fully realized by the global community. Analysts said the Washington summit on intelligent water use could provide clues to the rest of the world.