Energy Poverty and Water-Driven Mortality

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This post features early insights from some of my ongoing research into the food-energy-water nexus in Sub-Saharan Africa.

“You’re in Texas, why focus on Africa,” one might ask? Simplest response: it is a region where relatively small investments in the right places can still have an outsized positive impact on human wellbeing. It also has the highest global population growth potential in coming years and if regional states cannot get a handle on water issues, the impacts will likely be global. Finally, as a Texan living in a sub-tropical place near where African game animals thrive on multiple ranches, I see this part of the world as our “climate cousin” and find it personally fascinating.

Key Findings:

–A sample of more than 200 countries and territories analyzed by the author reveals a strong negative relationship between access to electricity and mortality from waterborne illnesses.

–Sub-Saharan Africa—the world’s most broadly energy-poor region—also has the countries with the highest rates anywhere globally of death per capita from unsafe water.

–Water for human consumption (as well as other uses) embeds an often underappreciated quantity of energy.

–As an example, every 1,000 gallons of groundwater supplies used in the City of San Antonio embeds an estimated 12 kWh, nearly the energy storage capacity of a Tesla Powerwall (14 kWh).

Full graphics available at: Gabriel Collins, “Energy Poverty and Water-Driven Mortality,” Baker Institute Research Presentation, November 2020, 

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