Understanding the Energy-Water Nexus

We are so accustomed to having plenty of water available as soon as we turn on the tap that most people have never even given a second thought as to how that water got there.  Well, it does not happen magically.  It takes energy and plenty of it for the more than 400 billion gallons of water delivered in the U.S. each day to get to its destination. 

Thermo Plant Waterless Urinals

And that’s not the only energy-water related connection. About half of the water consumed in the U.S. each day is used in thermo-electric power plants for steam and to cool equipment, for mining purposes, and for hydraulic fracking. These industries are very water intensive and just could not function without a steady and dependable stream of water.

But how about us?  How does the energy-water nexus apply to the water used in our homes, offices, and farms every day?  First of all, we have to understand that the energy we are referring to is electricity.  It takes electricity - delivered primarily by pumps - to supply, treat, distribute, soften, collect, recycle, remove, and discharge water.

And these energy costs depend heavily on the distance and geography between the source of the water and the end user – that’s you and me.  And this can vary significantly throughout the country. 

For instance, in Northern California, a considerable amount of the water used each day is sourced from nearby wells and mountain reserves.  When water is transported from the mountains, we’re lucky.  In some cases, there is virtually no electricity needed to transport the water to local utilities.  Gravity does all the work.

However, in Southern California, it’s an entirely different story. Southern California transports more than half of its water from the Colorado River. This requires about 400 miles of pipes, lifting water more than 2,000 feet over the Tehachapi Mountains and then through long stretches of valleys where the water would just remain dormant if it were not being pumped through pipes using electricity.

This type of scenario is played out throughout the country.  In some cases, water is delivered from nearby sources, requiring only modest amounts of electricity for delivery.  In other cases, especially in the western half of the country, water may need to be transported for hundreds of miles over all types of terrain.

So what does this all mean for consumers?

The first thing we need to know is that we are footing the bill for this energy-water nexus every time we pay our water bills.  Currently, these amounts may be subsidized or mitigated somewhat by state and local governments, however, as the costs to find, store, and deliver water go up, we can expect government entities to pass on more of these costs to consumers. 

water costs rising

This is happening now in many parts of the country, and one of the reasons water bills have been increasing about five percent every year since 2010.  That year, a family of four using 150 gallons of water per person per day paid about $70 per month for water.  Today, that figure is closer to $110 per month.  And for businesses, these water increases can be even higher.

The only way to address this energy-water nexus situation and help reduce the cost of water and the massive amounts of energy required to deliver water is to use water more efficiently.  This is happening, and the recent five-year drought in California has accelerated this.  At least when it comes to restroom fixtures in commercial buildings, expect more of them to use far less water today than those manufactured a few years ago. And when it comes to urinals, expect to see more urinals that function perfectly using no water at all.

For more information on ways to reduce water consumption and waterless urinals, please contact us Toll-free: 1-800-244-6364