Saving water also saves energy report finds

As electricity demand and oil prices reaches record highs, and floods and droughts ravage many parts of the world, a new report has shown the hidden connections between the two resources of energy and water. The report concludes that saving water is also a very good way to save energy.

“Few people realise how much energy we use when we turn on the tap. Conserving water and improving efficiency doesn’t just save water, it also saves energy, cuts electricity bills and reduces pollution from power plants,” said Ronnie Cohen, policy analyst with the Natural Resources Defence Council (NRDC) and co-author of the study.

Water utilities use large amounts of energy to heat, cool and pump the water. For example, California’s State water project is the largest single user of energy in California, consuming two to three per cent of all electricity consumed in the state.

In addition, the report states that 90% of all electricity used on farms is devoted to pumping groundwater for irrigation.

Despite these connections, the report’s authors feel that policymakers are rarely considering the energy costs of water supply planning.

“With power shortages and water scarcity a constant threat across the West, it’s time to look at water and energy in a new way,” said Dr. Gary Wolff, a co-author of the report. “But too often, policy makers and water and energy experts ignore the links. The good news is we can reduce our energy use, cut air pollution and create new energy supplies with cost effective improvements in water efficiency.”

The NRDC study compared various scenarios to see which would save most water and energy. It found that taking additional water from the State Water Project and building a desalination plant would consume the most electricity. In comparison, improving water efficiency and conservation efforts could save San Diego 767 million kilowatt hours, enough to power 118,000 households for a year.

People could also lower their energy bills by conserving and using water more efficiently as it takes so much energy to heat the water for dish washers, clothes washers and showers. People who have more efficient appliances are therefore going to save more money on their water and energy bills.

The report also recommends water recycling in both urban and agricultural settings, retiring drainage impaired agricultural land and transferring the water to other agricultural uses, and stopping the practice of diverting water above dams as this costs power and money.

By David Hopkins

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