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The Water-Energy Nexus

June 01, 2007
It’s not a secret, but most people don’t think about it. Once you know, however, it seems obvious. Water uses a tremendous amount of energy. It is not just a matter of the gas and electricity required to heat, cool, or pump water in our homes and businesses. It takes large amounts of energy before that to extract, convey, treat, and deliver water. Then it takes more energy to collect, treat, and dispose of wastewater. In fact, the California Energy Commission estimates that almost 20% of California’s electricity use, and over 30% of its natural gas use, is associated with the use of water. Given these high energy requirements, and the way in which such energy use contributes to global climate change, perhaps we need to rethink our approach to water supply. Water and energy should be as closely linked in people’s minds as peanut butter and jelly. Yet most people, and most policymakers, do not make this connection. Powerful Demand The more than 60,000 water systems and 15,000 wastewater systems in the United States are among the country’s largest energy consumers. They use about 75 billion kilowatt-hours per year—3% of annual U.S. ...

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