Energy efficiency absorbs water

May 12, 2011
By Elisa Wood May 11, 2011 Efforts have been underway for decades to conserve both energy and water, but never in concert. This is unfortunate because energy uses a lot of water and water uses a lot of energy. Two leading conservation organizations have set out to bring the efforts together. The American Council for an […]
By Elisa Wood
May 11, 2011

Efforts have been underway for decades to conserve both energy and water, but never in concert. This is unfortunate because energy uses a lot of water and water uses a lot of energy.

Two leading conservation organizations have set out to bring the efforts together. The American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy and the Alliance for Water Efficiency this week published a white paper that describes the co-dependence of water and energy resources, and outlines strategies to use both more efficiently.

The paper brings to light some interesting – and rarely discussed – ways each resource heightens use of the other.

  • Sourcing, moving, treating, heating, collecting, re-treating, and dispos­ing of water consumes19 percent of California’s electricity, 30 percent of its natural gas, and 88 billion gallons of diesel fuel annually, according to a 2005 California Energy Commission report.
  • The River Network in 2009 found that energy use for water services accounts for 13 percent of US electricity consumption, at least 520 million megawatt-hours annually.
  • Thermoelectric power accounted for an estimated 49 percent of US water withdrawals and 53 percent of fresh surface-water withdrawals in 2005.

ACEEE and AWE hope to work together on local, state and federal policy to bring more energy efficiency to water use and water efficiency to energy use.  They have some hurdles to overcome. For example, “the water and energy efficiency communities do not share a common language or appreciation of existing efficiency efforts,” the white paper said. “In addition, the two communities frequently operate under different regulatory business models and existing structures that do not recognize the benefits of both energy and water savings.”

The organizations intend to develop approaches that encourage com­munication and guide the industries and their regulators. They hope to share best practices and integrate water efficiency into existing energy efficiency programs and vice versa.

The project looks not only at the big water and energy users like power plants and waste water treatment facilities, but also households. This could prove interesting, as we move increasingly toward whole house automation as a way to increase efficiency and comfort in the home. Home automation has tended, thus far, to focus on energy and telecommunications, with a host of up-and-coming high tech gadgets that make the home a more interesting and more resource-efficient place to live, work and play. If water and energy efficiency merge in the direction described by ACEEE and AWE, will we see a new suite of ‘smart water’ technologies in the smart home? Stay tuned. This could be interesting. Read the white paper here.

Elisa Wood’s white paper, “Exporting US Energy Efficiency,” is available at www.RealEnergyWriters.com.

About the Author

Elisa Wood | Editor-in-Chief

Elisa Wood is an award-winning writer and editor who specializes in the energy industry. She is chief editor and co-founder of Microgrid Knowledge and serves as co-host of the publication’s popular conference series. She also co-founded RealEnergyWriters.com, where she continues to lead a team of energy writers who produce content for energy companies and advocacy organizations.

She has been writing about energy for more than two decades and is published widely. Her work can be found in prominent energy business journals as well as mainstream publications. She has been quoted by NPR, the Wall Street Journal and other notable media outlets.

“For an especially readable voice in the industry, the most consistent interpreter across these years has been the energy journalist Elisa Wood, whose Microgrid Knowledge (and conference) has aggregated more stories better than any other feed of its time,” wrote Malcolm McCullough, in the book, Downtime on the Microgrid, published by MIT Press in 2020.

Twitter: @ElisaWood

LinkedIn: Elisa Wood

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