Water & Energy Paradox

Via Live Quality, a look at the watergy nexus:

In order for us to produce energy, we need to use massive amounts of water. But to use water, we need a great deal of energy to process the water. Let’s take a look at how much water is used to supply power to America.

According to the United States Geological Survey, over 45% of water consumed per day is used to power America. Water is the main component in the ability to cool a thermoelectric power plant. Typically these plants are found along medium to large sized rivers, or lakes. 99% of the water is drawn from surface water. While some of the consumed water can be reused, less than half of the plants use such technology. According to the department of energy 41.9% use recirculating systems. However, on average 3,891 gallons per minute evaporate in such systems. This means the current implementation has a significant loss of water rather than reintroduced in it’s original source.

Unfortunately, to use water requires a great deal of energy. We can identify three areas in which energy is spent in the water process. The first one being the transportation of water. Pumping 17,000ft³ at the height of 330ft requires about 200kWh of electricity. This is a significant amount of energy considering the vast distances that water must be transported in every American municipality. The second area is in water heating. This is typically about 15% of the energy bill in a home. Finally, we need to transport wastewater and treat it. In California it can be between 475-1400kWh of energy to treat 300,000 gallons of water.

In a world of constrained resources, and increase demand we cannot look past this paradox. A great example of this problem is the concern of desalination plants in California. It would cost about 14kWh per 0.3 Million Gallons per day just to convert sea water into drinkable water. After that, the other three areas of energy consumption for the water process mentioned earlier gets applied.

As we can see from this analysis, energy and water complement each other. We cannot have one without another. This calls for close cooperation between water and energy organizations.


Total Water Use. USGS, 9 Dec. 2016, water.usgs.gov/watuse/wuto.html.
Thermoelectric Power Water Use. USGS, 9 Dec. 2016, water.usgs.gov/watuse/wupt.html.
Water Usage in Coal to Power Applications. National Energy Technology Laboratory, www.netl.doe.gov/research/Coal/energy-systems/gasification/gasifipedia/water-usage.
Water and Energy Relationship. Alliance for Water Efficiency, www.home-water-works.org/energy-water.
Seawater Desalination Power Consumption. Water Reuse Association, Nov. 2011, watereuse.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/10/Power_consumption_white_paper.pdf.

This entry was posted on Saturday, December 2nd, 2017 at 9:16 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. 

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.

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.”