Water Smart = Energy Smart

Via The Johnson Foundation, a summary of an interesting presentation given recently on the watergy nexus:

“…When you drive by an empty office building at night and see lights left on, you probably think about the energy that’s being wasted, but do you also think about the water that’s wasted while the electric meter spins? When you weigh your transportation options, you probably think about convenience, cost, and energy impacts, but do you think about water impacts?

Earlier this week, Bevan Griffiths-Sattenspiel, co-author of “The Carbon Footprint of Water”, a report on the tight relationship between water and energy consumption released last year by River Network, addressed a crowd at Wingspread. Like a hydrant opened on a hot summer day, Bevan poured forth with numbers, charts, trends, and images.

The message boiled down to three simple points and one conclusion. First, climate change is here, and it’s about more than temperature. As we’ve heard repeatedly in recent years, water is the vector through which we will experience climate change – drought, increased storm intensity, increased water use, etc. Bevan told us that of the ten key findings of a 2009 study entitled “Global Climate Change Impacts in the U.S.”, eight of them tie to water.

Secondly, thermoelectric power, which provides 90% of U.S. electricity, is the largest user of water in the country. Though he took us on a deep dive into the numbers, it comes to one simple fact: When you use electricity, you use water. A lot of water. In some situations the water is returned to its source, but it’s altered – small fish are killed, temperatures are raised, quality is impacted. In fact, our energy supply chain has water impacts throughout – water pollution stemming from coal, gas, and oil extraction, water used during fuel processing, energy (and hence, water) to transport the fuel, air pollution that eventually falls back to the ground, polluting our waters, and the list goes on.

And finally, using water uses energy. It takes electricity to purify water, to create the chemicals that keep our water clean, and to pump the water through the system. Once the water is used, more energy is required to pump the water to a treatment facility, to run the treatment facility, to dry the treated sewage, etc. And in the case of hot water, additional energy (as much as 1/3 of our natural gas usage!) is required. If you think about how heavy water is (when was the last time you had to haul a 5-gallon jug of water?), this begins to make sense. Conclusion? If you want to save energy, use less water (especially hot water), and use it closer to its point of origin.

And that’s the beauty of it. By getting smarter about water, we make headway on our energy challenges and begin to bend back the curve of climate change impacts. At the same time, as we make smart choices about energy conservation and convert to wind and solar power, we lessen the load on our nation’s waters.”

This entry was posted on Tuesday, December 28th, 2010 at 1:34 pm and is filed under Uncategorized.  You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed.  You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site. 

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About This Blog And Its Author
As the scarcity of water and energy continues to grow, the linkage between these two critical resources will become more defined and even more acute in the months ahead.  This blog is committed to analyzing and referencing articles, reports, and interviews that can help unlock the nascent, complex and expanding linkages between water and energy -- The Watergy Nexus -- and will endeavor to provide a central clearinghouse for insightful articles and comments for all to consider.

Educated at Yale University (Bachelor of Arts - History) and Harvard (Master in Public Policy - International Development), Monty Simus has held a lifelong interest in environmental and conservation issues, primarily as they relate to freshwater scarcity, renewable energy, and national park policy.  Working from a water-scarce base in Las Vegas with his wife and son, he is the founder of Water Politics, an organization dedicated to the identification and analysis of geopolitical water issues arising from the world’s growing and vast water deficits, and is also a co-founder of SmartMarkets, an eco-preneurial venture that applies web 2.0 technology and online social networking innovations to motivate energy & water conservation.  He previously worked for an independent power producer in Central Asia; co-authored an article appearing in the Summer 2010 issue of the Tulane Environmental Law Journal, titled: “The Water Ethic: The Inexorable Birth Of A Certain Alienable Right”; and authored an article appearing in the inaugural issue of Johns Hopkins University's Global Water Magazine in July 2010 titled: “H2Own: The Water Ethic and an Equitable Market for the Exchange of Individual Water Efficiency Credits.”