President Nicolás Maduro has announced a 4 day working week with three-day weekends to include Fridays for the next two months. El Niño has produced a series of extreme weather events this year: while Chile suffers excessive rainfall, Venezuela is experiencing a drought. Hydroelectricity provides the bulk of the country’s electricity supply. Large commercial users of energy meanwhile are being asked to generate their own electricity for 9 hours a day. Heavy industries are being asked to cut consumption by 20%. The economic impact on a country already struggling will be significant. And there is individual impact too: Maduro has discouraged the use of air conditioning, tumble dryers, hairdryers and hair straighteners. The President is quoted as saying: “I always think a woman looks better when she just runs her fingers through her hair and lets it dry naturally”.
Even when electricity is not generated by hydropower, water is used extensively in generation – converted into steam to drive turbines, and used as a coolant, to irrigate energy crops, and in the oil & gas exploration industry. The Hidden Costs of Electricity report from Synapse Energy Economics, prepared for the non-profit and non-partisan Civil Society Institute (CSI) and the Environmental Working Group, says that it takes 100,000 gallons of water to produce a single megawatt hour of electricity.
Water proves itself yet again to be fundamental to life on Earth.