To Save Energy We Must Also Save Water

November 1, 2013

The connection between
energy and water, often referred to as the “energy-water nexus,” is collecting
attention from business leaders, policy makers, and citizens alike. In short,
this term refers to the close link between water and energy. Water is used in
nearly every aspect of energy production. Saving energy will save water, and
saving water will save energy. When we consider that the demand for electricity
is expected to increase significantly in coming decades, it is clear that water
consumption will also increase. This links adequate water supply directly to
the energy security of our country. Clean energy technologies such as biofuels
and carbon sequestration actually require large amounts of water to produce; so
while they cut down on greenhouse gas emissions, they may actually contribute
to water pollution and waste. Wind and solar power are the cleanest energy
sources in terms of both water and carbon emissions.

in particular, has a significant impact on our water supply. Fossil fuel
generation, nuclear power, and hydroelectricity all consume large amounts of
fresh water. It is estimated that fossil fuel generation alone represents about
39% of all fresh water withdrawals in the United States, which equals about 136
billion gallons of water per day. When you do the math, it turns out that every
single kWh of electricity uses about 40 gallons of fresh water. Water is also
used intensively for extracting the fuels that generate our electricity. Coal,
oil, and natural gas all require a significant water supply to acquire and, in
most cases, contribute to fresh water pollution. Hydraulic fracturing, or
“fracking,” is one of the most controversial topics currently circulating in
the energy sector. It is a hot topic because chemicals are mixed with water and
injected into rock to release gas or oil. There is still debate over whether or
not this practice seriously contributes to pollution of the water table.

the other hand, clean water has a sizeable footprint when it comes to
electricity. Electric power is used to treat and pump water supply to homes and
businesses. In fact, the water industry consumes about 100 million MWH of
electricity per year. This is equal to about 4% of all generated power, and
most of that energy is used by water pumps. The interconnection between water
and energy means that conserving one will help conserve the other. By becoming
more energy efficient, we become more water efficient, and vice versa.

energy efficiency and smart grid initiatives are more commonly adopted across
the world, similar solutions to the problem of water efficiency may follow
suit. The fact is that electricity demand in the United States is rising,
especially in regions typically strained for water supplies, such as the
Midwest, which experienced serious drought last year. This means water supplies
will need to be conserved as much as possible going forward and one way to help
this happen is to become more energy-efficient.

energy-water nexus reminds us that our resources are not isolated. We often do
not remember how reliant we are on a good water supply. Water and energy also
both contribute to the operating expenses of business and industry. Enacting
energy conservation methods in these sectors not only conserves resources, but
can save money as well.


Insulation’s Importance in
the Energy-Water Nexus

energy-water nexus refers to the inextricable link between water and energy,
due to the fact that water is used to obtain and produce energy, and energy is
expended in the delivery of water. Insulation is so often mentioned in
energy-water nexus discussions because it offers the opportunity to conserve
these valuable resources. According to the National Institute of Building
Sciences (NIBS) “more, not less, insulation?” is essential to enhance the
long-term performance of building systems. Studies indicate that pipe
insulation reduces the amount of time needed for water—at the desired temperature—to
reach the end user. This conserves water and, in the case of hot water, saves
energy. This leads to lower costs as well as less energy and water waste; it is
a simple technology that can lead to immense savings. Policy makers and
business leaders are taking note of energy-water nexus issues, and upcoming
building codes and plans are likely to reflect updates to conserve energy and
water. This may present increased opportunities for insulation professionals as
building plans include the use of more insulation. Buildings with better
insulation systems not only provide tremendous financial savings for building
owners and tenants, they can also reduce environmental impact by increasing
efficiency. Insulation has the potential to help solve these energy, financial,
and environmental issues—a fact that will continue to garner attention and
concrete benefits for those in the industry.