Moving forward toward a greener future includes not only renewable energy and energy efficiency but efficiency in general. We are a very wasteful society – largely because there was little downside to generating the waste when infrastructure was first put in place. As more of us have swelled the size of society, that waste has become more important. I wanted to share some results I read about in this Climate Progress water efficiency post, which started out about Santa Clara, California water conservation efforts and moved onto larger studies and examples.
The results have been impressive: a savings of 370,000 acre-feet of water in 13 years. (A typical household uses one acre-foot of water per year).
But perhaps even more significant have been the energy savings and reductions in greenhouse gas emissions: 1.42 billion kilowatt hours of electricity and 335 million kg of carbon dioxide, which is equal to taking 72,000 cars off the road for a year.
That’s right: water efficiency translates to energy savings.
In early March, the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee held a hearing on the Energy and Water Integration Act of 2009 sponsored by Sens. Jeff Bingaman (D-NM) and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK). The bill’s main emphasis is to study the impact of energy development on U.S. water resources, but it also calls on the Department of Energy to periodically assess the energy consumed in the delivery, treatment, and use of water.
That study is important: if nobody knows the extent of a potential problem, it’s harder to come up with potential solutions like crafting legislation to promote water conservation efforts. We know governments at every level offer varying tax credits for energy efficient windows, new water heaters, solar paneling and geothermal systems. Similar credits don’t yet exist on a large scale to assist consumers who want to buy water efficient items like dishwasher, clothes washers, faucets, toilets, etc. To boost energy savings nationally; to reduce as much demand on fossil fuel plants as possible; to reduce our GHG pollution, water conservation measures should join energy efficiency measures as programs that need to be supported.
More information [emphasis mine]:
In “Energy Down the Drain,” a 2004 study of the hidden costs of California’s water supply, the Natural Resources Defense Council and the Pacific Institute found that the “end use of water–especially energy-intensive uses like washing clothes and taking showers–consumes more energy than any other part of the urban water conveyance and treatment cycle” and that “significant amounts of energy” can be saved through conservation. For example, one of their case studies found that if San Diego provided its next 100,000 acre feet of water through conservation instead of transporting it from northern California, the energy savings would be enough to supply 25 percent of San Diego households.
Separately, the Environmental Protection Agency estimated that if just 1 percent of American homes replaced old toilets with water-saving ones, it would reduce energy consumption by 38 million kWh, enough to electrify 43,000 homes for a month. This of course translates into financial savings. Implementing just a few water efficiency measures could save up to $170 annually on water and sewage bills, which on average are about $500 annually for an American household. If each U.S. household had seven water-efficient appliances, it would save $18 billion annually, according to the EPA.
In contrast to projects that might be more popularized, such as solar panels and geothermal, water conservation projects are cheaper and return their cost faster. That should make them more marketable in the short term, especially in our current recession.
In its publication “Water Efficiency for the Home,” the Rocky Mountain Institute offers some examples: In 10 years, an efficient showerhead will return 10-40 times its cost in saved energy alone, and inexpensive replacement faucets can reduce indoor water use by 3-5 percent and pay for themselves in less than a year.
Case in point: In a December 2008 study, the Alliance for Water Efficiency found that a $10 billion stimulus that focused on retrofitting homes with water-conserving appliances and fixtures, installing smart outdoor irrigation systems, and improving commercial and industrial water applications could create between 150,000 and 220,000 jobs and generate as much as $28 billion in economic output.
$10 billion can create over 150,000 jobs and generate $28 billion in economic output. Those are incredible numbers. Does the private sector have $10 billion sitting around? If it does, is it willing to pony it up to create those jobs and that economic output? If it is, why hasn’t it done it yet? No – the only entity that has the money and the incentive to put it on the table is the government. Anti-Obama-ites can mock and disparage the government all they want, but they don’t have access to those kinds of funds (or if they do, they’re unwilling to do something similar, which works out to about the same thing in the end). Obviously, they don’t have the interest in generating those jobs either. Those hypocrites who let the Bushies spend trillions of dollars occupying sovereign nations and are now “angry” at Obama spending money on America don’t want solutions. To them, it’s ideology over country. That’s why I’m glad Climate Progress, realists in the Senate, the NRDC, the Pacific Institute, a science-based EPA, the Rocky Mountain Institute, the Alliance for Water Efficiency and many others exist. They’re doing the heavy lifting to make this country greater and help solve our water and climate crises.
Cross-posted at SquareState.