An understanding of the nexus between water and energy and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions is essential for sustainable water resources management. While a number of such studies on understanding this nexus have been carried out in the recent past, there have been virtually no studies that have done so for Asian cities. This study aims to plug this gap by analyzing the water–energy–carbon (WEC) nexus for Bangkok, the capital city of Thailand. Using mostly secondary data, and through interactions with concerned stakeholders, the study revealed that more than 335 GWh of energy is used per year for water supply (0.22 kWh of energy to drive 1 m3 of water from source to tap). About 276 million litres of water is consumed for total power production in Thailand; almost 16% of water supplied annually by the Metropolitan Waterworks Authority (MWA). Of this, 0.625 million litres is consumed by electricity, utilised for water supply in Bangkok. In addition 82.2 billion kgCO2-eq is emitted by the power sector annually and energy associated with water emits 187 million kgCO2-eq/year, equal to 0.11 kgCO2-eq of GHG emission from each 1 m3 of water supplied by the MWA. This study provides information on the WEC nexus in cities as evidenced by Bangkok, which can contribute to the formulation of a policy in water and energy sectors to fulfil the objective of reducing GHG emissions.

INTRODUCTION

Water resources and energy are the key drivers of the socioeconomic and political development of any country. The water resources management issue is a vital one for human security and political stability in the coming decades (World Economic Forum 2011; Glassman et al. 2011). The rapid increase in population and economic activity in cities has increased the demand for an adequate amount of water and energy (IWA 2009; Glassman et al. 2011). As a result of population growth and economic advancement, cities are expanding, and this requires the transport of water over long distances, which entails a substantial consumption of energy (Wilkinson 2011; Shrestha et al. 2012). Owing to the nexus that exists between water and energy, this may also result in an adverse impact on the water sector as well. At the same time, a significant amount of energy is consumed at different stages in the water supply; e.g. extraction from surface and groundwater sources, water treatment, treatment of wastewater for reuse, desalination of brackish water and seawater, together with distribution and finally the disposal of wastewater (Kahrl & Holst 2008; Morrison et al. 2009; Oyegoke et al. 2012). Conversely, water is consumed in thermal power plants (for cooling), hydropower plants (as the source of mechanical energy) in which a significant amount of water is lost through evaporation, and also in the upstream production and processing of fossil fuels which are subsequently used in the energy sector (IWA 2009; Olsson 2011; Rothausen & Conway 2011). The emission of greenhouse gas (GHG) is dictated by the various types of energy production as well as its utilisation.

The relationship between water, energy and carbon is complex. Each component is directly linked with the other, where a minor change in any of them will have consequences for the other two, thus affecting the socioeconomic and environmental aspects of a city (PMSEIC 2010). The impact of climate change and other stresses has limited the availability of sufficient clean water which in turn has increased the price of water as well as energy (Griffiths & Wilson 2009; World Economic Forum 2011). When we concentrate on climate change and reduction of GHG emissions by cleaner forms of conventional energy as well as renewable energy such as hydropower, water consumption may rise (Glassman et al. 2011). Quantification of water used in energy generation, water supply and associated GHG emissions is increasingly necessary in today's resource-constrained world. This information will help policymakers and users to understand the quantity of water required for energy as well as water-related energy use, and evaluate the potential to reduce GHG emissions by conserving water (Griffiths & Wilson 2009).

A study conducted by Griffiths & Wilson (2009) in the USA estimated that a 5% reduction in leakage from the water distribution network can save 1,020 million litres of water daily and 313 million kWh of electricity per year; equivalent to electricity use in over 31,000 homes in the USA. In addition, GHG emissions can be reduced by approximately 225,000 metric tons per year. The water resource sector in future will emphasise the key role of water in mitigating climate change by taking action to reduce GHG emissions, as well as energy consumption for water and wastewater treatment and supply (Parkes et al. 2010).

More than half of the world's population lives in Asia, but it has less freshwater than any other continent except Antarctica (Asia Society 2009). Cities in Asia can be a target area for the disturbing impact of climate change. Population growth has been marked in urban areas of Asia, increasing energy consumption as well as water demand. Unlike energy resources, water has no substitute and has been recognised as a unique resource, and it is clear that the management of water resources is not as easy as it was in the past (World Economic Forum 2011). It is important to incorporate the energy associated with water use to ensure future availability of water resources while fulfilling present needs (Shrestha et al. 2012). At present there is a need for the integration of water and energy policies into a framework for sustainable use of water resources (IWA 2009). Reducing energy consumption and GHG emissions from the water sector should be considered as one of the goals for sustainable water consumption and production in cities to reduce carbon footprint (Shrestha et al. 2012). To tackle the climate change problem there should be a reduction in GHG emissions with new alternative energy sources, which may have substantial water requirements. Hence, the water–energy–carbon (WEC) nexus should be quantified more precisely to carry out a tradeoff analysis between these components (IWA 2009; Glassman et al. 2011).

However, there have been virtually no studies on the WEC nexus in Asian cities. This study seeks to plug this knowledge gap by analyzing the WEC nexus in Bangkok, the capital of Thailand. Bangkok is one of the world's major metropolitan areas and a hub for the Southeast Asian region. The population has been increasing tremendously and creates a challenge for adequate water supply facilities and energy supply to address the increasing population as well as industrial and business growth. Quantification of water, energy and carbon footprint in different sectors has been a problematic issue due to lack of data availability and a limited number of studies in this region. The expanding city limits, rapidly growing population and increased use of both water and energy resources and possible GHG emissions made the city of Bangkok the first choice for this study.

STUDY AREA DESCRIPTION

Bangkok is the capital city of Thailand, one of the rapidly developing countries in Southeast Asia. It is one of the fastest-growing cities in the region and the commercial, industrial and cultural centre of Thailand. The Bangkok Metropolitan Region (BMR) is also known as Greater Bangkok, consisting of the Bangkok metropolitan area and five adjacent provinces of Nakhon Pathom, Pathum Thani, Nonthaburi, Samut Prakan and Samut Sakhon.

The Metropolitan Waterworks Authority (MWA) is a water production and supply agency for the Bangkok metropolitan area and two adjoining provinces; Samut Prakan and Nonthaburi as shown in Figure 1 (MWA 2013). It is the largest water supply agency, supplying water to the capital city and three provinces within the BMR. The main sources of water for the city are the Maeklong and Chaophraya Rivers. Raw water collected from these rivers is processed by the four treatment plants. Water collected from the Maeklong River is carried to the Mahasawat treatment plant through the West Water Canal. Similarly, the water from the Chaophraya River is transported through the East Water Canal to undergo treatment in the Bankhen, Samsen and Thonburi water treatment plants. Treated water is then transmitted to different pumping stations for further distribution (MWA 2013).

Figure 1

Six provinces in the BMR, the shaded section (Nonthaburi, Bangkok Metropolis and Samut Prakhan) showing the service area of the MWA.

Figure 1

Six provinces in the BMR, the shaded section (Nonthaburi, Bangkok Metropolis and Samut Prakhan) showing the service area of the MWA.

The Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand (EGAT) is the prime body for production and transmission of electricity in Thailand. It is a state enterprise under the Ministry of Energy (EGAT 2013). The total installed capacity built and owned by EGAT is 13,617 MW, accounting for about 47.8% of the total generating capacity of the country, mostly from thermal plants. EGAT is also responsible for the purchase and distribution of electric power from private power companies and the importing of electricity from neighbouring countries. In this study, the water consumed and GHG emissions from the energy production process of power plants associated with EGAT is considered.

DATA COLLECTION

The data used for this research are mostly secondary; obtained from literature reviews and correspondence with the respective data distributors. The range of values for water footprint of energy (water consumed) and energy footprint of water production is adopted from the analysis of a large set of values from different literature with different study areas as an empirical value. The data regarding water supplied by the MWA are collected from its annual reports (2004–2011). Similarly, the data for power production in Thailand are collected from the EGAT website and annual reports published by the authority. Statistics relating to energy use, water use, population, etc. are collected from the website of the National Statistical Office of Thailand. Other relevant data regarding historical fuel consumption in electricity production are obtained from the database of the Energy Policy and Planning Office website (EPPO 2012).

RESULTS AND DISCUSSION

During the water use cycle, energy consumption varies according to the different stages and may further depend on several other factors such as the source, quality, frequency and availability of water. Raw water extraction, treatment, distribution and wastewater disposal are considered to be the four major energy-consuming stages in the water system (Wilkinson 2000).

Apart from the centralised water supply system, there are several private companies supplying water through mobile tankers, bottled water (Gleick & Cooley 2009) and individual groundwater pumping facilities in most cities. The energy used for water production varies in several aspects. In this context, it is imperative to compare the intensity of energy used for different quality water and places with different water availability.

In this study, the water intensity of power generation is calculated from factors derived from other studies (Appendix 1, available online at http://www.iwaponline.com/ws/015/046.pdf). However, the consumption and withdrawal of water varies according to the process of power generation and its efficiency. The average value for each type of power plant is assigned according to the fuel source and type of plant. Similarly, the energy consumption at each stage of the water supply cycle varies greatly (Appendix 2, available online at http://www.iwaponline.com/ws/015/046.pdf). The secondary data obtained from the MWA consist of the energy used in supply, whereas energy used in demand and the disposal and treatment of wastewater is unaccounted for.

Energy consumption in the MWA water supply

The MWA supplies water to the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration and an additional two provinces, namely Samut Prakan and Nonthaburi, serving around eight million people with two million tap connections in a service area of 2,477 km2 (MWA 2012). Energy consumption is accounted for in four different stages of water supply, namely: raw water intake, water treatment, water transmission and water distribution. The energy footprint is higher for the transmission and distribution processes, i.e. 0.088 kWh/m3 and 0.081 kWh/m3 respectively, as pumping is required which uses a lot of energy (Table 1). Although the values are higher among the four stages, they still appear to be less compared to the median values of 0.28 kWh/m3 from the different studies shown in Figure 2. The area of the city and number of pumping stations are governing factors for energy used in the transmission stage, hence, energy consumption in this stage depends on the service area and geographical condition as well as the efficiency of the system. The overall energy use intensity is 0.22 kWh/m3 and the total annual energy footprint is 335.46 GWh only on the supply side.

Table 1

Estimation of total annual energy consumption and energy consumed at different stages of the MWA water supply

SNParameterVolume (106 m3)MWA energy use intensity (kWh/m3)Annual energy consumption (GWh)
Raw water intake 1,951.7 0.006 12.09 
Treatment 1,781.2 0.042 75.36 
Transmission 1,229.7 0.088 108.67 
Distribution 1,715.8 0.081 139.33 
 Total  0.218 335.46 
SNParameterVolume (106 m3)MWA energy use intensity (kWh/m3)Annual energy consumption (GWh)
Raw water intake 1,951.7 0.006 12.09 
Treatment 1,781.2 0.042 75.36 
Transmission 1,229.7 0.088 108.67 
Distribution 1,715.8 0.081 139.33 
 Total  0.218 335.46 

SN = serial number.

Source:MWA (2012).

Figure 2

Range of energy consumption at each step of water supply with median values shown in digits.

Figure 2

Range of energy consumption at each step of water supply with median values shown in digits.

As the major source of water for the MWA is surface water, a very low share of energy is consumed (0.006 kWh/m3; Table 1) for raw water intake, while it is relatively high for deep groundwater pumping in the range of 0.5–1 kWh/m3 (Cooley et al. 2008; Griffiths & Wilson 2009). If we consider the overall energy use intensity for water supply in different cities as shown in Table 2, the intensity for MWA water use is quite low in comparison to other cities, as in California State, Adelaide, Sydney and Brisbane. The energy use intensity in the case of California State water is irrationally high as it is transferred from Sacramento with a 600 m lift (Apostolidis 2012). The energy use for the MWA water supply may increase drastically if energy intensities of end users (households, industries, etc.) are considered, which can be up to 11 and 27.4 kWh/m3 for residential and commercial sectors, respectively (Cohen et al. 2004).

Table 2

Overall energy use intensity for water supply in different cities

SNCityEnergy use intensity (kWh/m3)Remarks
Melbourne 0.14 Existing supply serving South East Water (SEW) area 
Sydney 1.10 Existing supply (prior desalination) 
Brisbane 0.74 Existing supply (prior desalination and western corridor recycled water) 
Gold Coast 0.21 Existing supply 
Adelaide 1.90 Existing supply 
California State Water Project 3.00 Major water transfer scheme from Sacramento–San Joaquin delta over the Tehachapi mountains with 600 m lift 
MWA, Bangkok 0.22 Extraction to tap (supply side) 
SNCityEnergy use intensity (kWh/m3)Remarks
Melbourne 0.14 Existing supply serving South East Water (SEW) area 
Sydney 1.10 Existing supply (prior desalination) 
Brisbane 0.74 Existing supply (prior desalination and western corridor recycled water) 
Gold Coast 0.21 Existing supply 
Adelaide 1.90 Existing supply 
California State Water Project 3.00 Major water transfer scheme from Sacramento–San Joaquin delta over the Tehachapi mountains with 600 m lift 
MWA, Bangkok 0.22 Extraction to tap (supply side) 

Water consumed by energy sector

Thailand's net electricity generation is 152 terawatt-hours (TWh) as of 2012 (90 TWh in 2000) (EIA 2013). Most of the urban water supply has electricity as the major source of energy as is the case for the MWA, hence, we are only concerned with the electrical energy consumption supplied through integrated power grids. Thus we consider the total electricity supplied by EGAT with proportional use of all sources of energy.

EGAT is the primary agency for the production and transmission of electricity in Thailand, producing 48% of the electric power supplied to the nation where about 45% is supplemented by independent power producers (IPP) and small power producers (SPP), and the remainder is imported from Lao PDR and Malaysia. The total power of approximately 15,000 MW is generated by EGAT inside the country, most of which comes from thermal plants.

Renewable energy sources make a minor contribution to the total energy supplied by EGAT. Hydropower contributes around 3,424 MW and 22.83% of EGAT's generating capacity and almost 10% of the total installed capacity. In this study, we consider the water and carbon footprints of energy generation. Thus, we are more concerned with the type of plant and the cooling technology and the fuel type. The water footprint usually varies according to the plant type. When considering a complex set-up, with a number of heterogeneous individual components, a life cycle assessment (LCA) is usually performed to assess the water usage, and thereby the water footprint, of each component. However, because in this study the scope is limited to only an energy plant, the use of an LCA was not considered necessary.

Water footprint of energy generation

The main source of energy for most of the cities is from electricity. However, the sources of electricity and type of power plants may vary widely. Here we have considered the electricity supplied by EGAT. EGAT supplies 70.47 TWh of energy from its own generation, whereas another major contribution of 62.73 TWh is from IPP. SPP generate 14.95 and a very small portion of electricity is imported from Laos and Malaysia, i.e. 10.70 TWh and 0.115 TWh respectively. Approximately 44.17 TWh of energy is distributed by the Metropolitan Electricity Authority (MEA) in the three provinces (Bangkok Metropolitan, Samut Prakan and Nonthaburi). This represents around 28% of the total energy supplied by EGAT. The higher electricity utilisation suggests intensive energy use for commercial, industrial and luxury residential purposes in Bangkok and also supports the fact that the major source of energy is electricity.

The water consumption in power production varies according to the process and type of power plant. Most of the power plants are thermal, which are supposed to consume large quantities of water for cooling. Water consumption factors for different kinds of power plants have been obtained from the literature, based on the average values for similar types of power plants in different parts of the world as shown in Figure 3 and Appendix 1.

Figure 3

Range of water footprints for different types of power plants with median values shown in digits.

Figure 3

Range of water footprints for different types of power plants with median values shown in digits.

Table 4 shows that the total water footprint of energy generated by the different sources of power supplied by EGAT is 276 billion litre/year. The average water consumption is 1,866 litre/MWh.

Figure 4

Range of GHG emissions from different types of power plants based on the fuel used.

Figure 4

Range of GHG emissions from different types of power plants based on the fuel used.

Thus the annual water consumption by energy used in the MWA water supply is calculated using the values from Table 1 and Table 3 in Equation (1): 
formula
1
(where WEmwa = water consumed by MWA energy use (m3); WEt = water consumed by total energy production (m3); Et = total energy from EGAT (GWh); Emwa = energy consumed by MWA water supply (GWh)) 
formula
In considering the water footprint of energy for the MWA water supply, the volume is 625,885 m3, which is 0.04% of 1,715 million m3 (Table 1) of the annual water supplied by the MWA. It shows that a very negligible amount of water is exhausted for urban water supply, i.e. 400 litres of water consumed while 1,000 m3 is supplied to the MWA service area. The water consumption in power plants may vary if a separate LCA is carried out for all.

Carbon footprint of water production and energy

The carbon footprint varies by the fuel used rather than the plant type. When considering the power plants according to the fuel type, the total energy consists of 72% natural gas, 11.34% lignite, and 8.67% coal plants. The hydropower sector contributes 5.36% of the energy, and a very small amount of energy, almost 0.01%, is from renewable energy sources. The carbon footprints of the energy are calculated in Table 4.

The estimate in Table 4 reveals that 82.63 million tons of CO2-eq (MtCO2-eq) GHG is emitted annually from the total energy generation in Thailand.

Thus the annual GHG emission by energy used in the MWA water supply is calculated using the values from Table 1 and Table 4 in Equation (2): 
formula
2
(where GHGmwa = GHG emitted by MWA water use (kgCO2-eq); GHGt = GHG emitted by total EGAT energy (kgCO2-eq); Et = Total energy from EGAT (GWh); Emwa = Energy consumed by MWA water supply (GWh)) 
formula
 
formula
Hence, the proportional share of carbon emissions from energy consumed by the MWA water supply is 0.187 MtCO2-eq/year, which is 0.22% of the total GHG emissions from energy supplied by EGAT.
Table 3

Estimate of total water consumption by the energy sector (energy supplied by EGAT) in Thailand

SNTypesAnnual energy produced** (GWh)Water consumption*** (L/MWh)Total water consumption (ML)
Natural gas 106,555.59 700 74,588.91 
Coal/lignite thermal 29,646.99 1,618 47,968.83 
Oil plants 1,705.79 1,216 2,074.24 
Hydropower 7,944.81 17,034 135,331.89 
Biomass* 2,282.87 7,228 16,500.58 
Renewable (wind/solar) 7.84 
 Total 148,143.89  276,464.46 
SNTypesAnnual energy produced** (GWh)Water consumption*** (L/MWh)Total water consumption (ML)
Natural gas 106,555.59 700 74,588.91 
Coal/lignite thermal 29,646.99 1,618 47,968.83 
Oil plants 1,705.79 1,216 2,074.24 
Hydropower 7,944.81 17,034 135,331.89 
Biomass* 2,282.87 7,228 16,500.58 
Renewable (wind/solar) 7.84 
 Total 148,143.89  276,464.46 
Table 4

Estimate of total GHG emission by the energy sector (energy supplied by EGAT) in Thailand

Fuel sourceTotal energy** (GWh)Carbon footprint*** (kgCO2-eq/kWh)Total GHG emission (106 kgCO2-eq)
Renewable energy 7.84 0.04 0.31 
Hydropower 7,944.81 0.026 206.57 
Biomass* 2,282.87 0.045 102.73 
Diesel oil 28.47 0.69 19.64 
Fuel oil 1,677.32 0.69 1,157.35 
Natural gas 106,555.60 0.50 53,277.80 
Lignite 16,801.71 0.94 15,793.61 
Coal 12,845.28 0.94 12,074.56 
Total 148,143.9  82,632.57 
Fuel sourceTotal energy** (GWh)Carbon footprint*** (kgCO2-eq/kWh)Total GHG emission (106 kgCO2-eq)
Renewable energy 7.84 0.04 0.31 
Hydropower 7,944.81 0.026 206.57 
Biomass* 2,282.87 0.045 102.73 
Diesel oil 28.47 0.69 19.64 
Fuel oil 1,677.32 0.69 1,157.35 
Natural gas 106,555.60 0.50 53,277.80 
Lignite 16,801.71 0.94 15,793.61 
Coal 12,845.28 0.94 12,074.56 
Total 148,143.9  82,632.57 

*WNA (2011); **EPPO (2012); ***Figure 4 and Appendix 3 (available online at http://www.iwaponline.com/ws/015/046.pdf).

CONCLUSION

The WEC nexus has been a widely discussed topic in recent years. The rapid increase in population has augmented the demand for water and energy in cities. Therefore water and energy security could be one of the greatest challenges in the near future, as both resources have a symbiotic relationship and an increase in one component will create an increase in another while increasing the emission of GHG. Hence, addressing water and energy security in an integrated manner requires a proper understanding of the WEC nexus in order to attain low GHG emissions to ensure a sustainable water resources system.

This study has analysed the WEC nexus of the MWA water supply in Bangkok City. The energy behind water use is not taken into account in our daily lives but when we look towards the water supply in Bangkok, a considerable amount of energy is consumed. An average of 0.22 kWh of energy is required to bring 1 m3 of water from source to tap. Energy consumption at the end use and treatment of wastewater and disposal may be much higher and vary by consumer type and technology, which is outside the scope of this study. Analysis of the data of the energy used in water supply found that 335 GWh of energy is consumed by the MWA water supply.

The analysis of energy supply in Thailand found that almost 72% of electric plants are using natural gas as fuel and most of the remainder are using coal and lignite, with almost 5% using hydropower and a very small portion using renewable resources. It is estimated that 276 billion litres of water are consumed by the electrical energy generated in Thailand, averaging 1,866 litres/MWh. Hence, the energy consumed in the water supply for Bangkok accounts for 625 million litres of water every year. If we compare it with the total volume of water supplied by the MWA annually, the water consumed by electricity used in the MWA water supply is about 0.04%. When we look towards carbon emissions, the figure is quite large as fuel is carbon intensive with very little renewable energy. A total of 82 MtCO2-eq (82 billion kgCO2-eq/year) is emitted per year by the energy sector within EGAT. Of this, 187 million kgCO2-eq/year is emitted by energy associated with water supply by the MWA, equivalent to 109 gmCO2-eq/m3 of water supplied.

Water, energy and carbon emissions are interlinked as a considerable amount of energy is required for water production, water is required for energy production and CO2 is emitted during the production of energy. The significant relationship between these three must be simplified in order to improve understanding, as energy use in the water sector is growing tremendously in cities. The future growth in population is expected to aggravate the situation. By characterising the WEC nexus in cities it will be easier to plan for the future and improve the situation.

Quantification of the water footprint of energy, carbon footprint of water and energy requirement for the MWA water supply in Bangkok has revealed that a considerable amount of energy is consumed by water supply in the BMR by the MWA, For the production of electricity a significant volume of water is consumed, adding to the carbon emissions.

As cities serve as residences for more than 50% of the world's population, a proper study of the WEC nexus in cities can help to understand various aspects of the supply as well as the consumption side of water–energy systems and associated GHG emissions. While formulating the policy in relation to water management, decisions should also take associated energy use into consideration. Water conservation is the best that can be adopted for both water and energy resource efficiency. By conserving water, the energy required to pump, treat and transport water and the disposal of wastewater can be reduced. Urban retrofitting could be the best solution for reducing leakage and water consumption, thus conserving energy and lowering the GHG emissions from the water sector. Therefore, effective policy and decision-making in water and energy resources management can be obtained through the nexus approach to assess interaction through the sectors. The tradeoffs between the components help in minimising costs with efficient utilisation of resources with minimal GHG emissions.

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Supplementary data