Though many states and localities are waking up to their water shortages and taking steps to plan for “peak water”, people generally continue to waste water and to ignore the energy-water link. In 2004 the Natural Resources Defense Council did a study in conjunction with the Pacific Institute called “Energy Down the Drain” on how saving water saves energy. We need to do more to spread the word. Here are seven ways to save energy by saving water:
1. Use local water.
Transporting water uses energy, so rainwater harvesting is a serious water-and-energy saver. According to the NRDC/Pacific Institute study “California’s State Water Project (SWP), which transports water from Northern California to Southern California is the state’s largest single energy user, consuming 2 to 3 percent of all electricity. It takes tremendous amounts of energy to pump the water 2,000 feet over the Tehachapi Mountains — the highest water lift of any water system in the world
2. Use less heated water in homes and businesses.
Heating water uses a great deal of energy. Small things magnified a million times over — like washing clothes with cold water or taking shorter showers — saves large amounts of energy.
3. Use energy-saving appliances.
Energy Star appliances will decrease water and energy use.
4. Learn from Australia.
Why reinvent the wheel? Since 2006, when the BBC reported Australia’s biggest drought in 1,000 years, the situation has not improved. In an island nation, this has a tendency to focus the mind, and water-and energy-saving inventions have been pouring forth from that country, while the government introduces policies that save energy and water almost daily.
5. Rethink your bathroom.
6. Rip out that lawn and replace it with a rain garden.
Watering grass, fertilizing it with petroleum-based fertilizers, and mowing it with a gas or electric mower…..need I say more?
7. Eat more vegetables and grains; cut down on the beef.
Animal farming takes more energy and water. “Beef production requires large volumes of water–as much as 100 times that required to produce equivalent amounts of protein energy from grains.” (Environmental Health Perspectives, 2002 And the cows are fed from corn that is farmed using energy-hogging fertilizers, insecticides, and fossil fuels.
If you think about it, it’s impossible to separate our energy use from our water use. If we can start thinking holistically about the systems we use in our daily lives — and get our governments to create policies that promote wise use of energy and water, we’ll be more ready for the limits to resources that are only going to increase.