Watergy - Connecting Water with Energy

June 07, 2007
Water/Energy: Linking Efficiency Efforts (Special Edition)
A version of this article appears in the Water/Energy: Linking Efficiency Efforts (Special Edition) issue of Home Energy Magazine.
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This special edition of Home Energy is dedicated to raising awareness of the important relationship between water and energy. I like the term “watergy,” which I thought I had invented until I found that the Alliance to Save Energy had gotten there first. For too long the conservation and efficiency efforts of government, utilities, and consumers have been singularly focused—either on energy or on water, but rarely on both. Hopefully, this is all water over the dam, and now we can begin to apply our efforts toward a more comprehensive approach of maximizing the planet’s resources and saving ourselves some bucks in the process. Is water not the most precious commodity on this earth? Is energy not a prerequisite to help us move, treat, heat, and dispose of water? Are there not opportunities to reduce both water use and our energy use? This special edition of Home Energy sheds light on how various businesses and organizations are viewing the water-energy nexus and are benefiting from efficiency opportunities.

EPA is moving toward its own watergy approach. EPA’s Office of Water has recently created a WaterSense program to certify and promote efficient products and practices for water use. This new program is in addition to the Energy Star program, which offers a government-backed symbol for energy efficiency. EPA is working to bring both efforts to homeowners and others across the country and is very interested in working with efficiency professionals as part of that effort. This special edition is a great step. This edition showcases watergy best practices, with information on efficient water use indoors and out, on how much energy and water whole-house retrofits will save, on new-construction programs that conserve both water and energy, and much more.
 
One area where EPA is very interested in the watergy connection is in the home. With more than 100 million homes in existence across the country, many of which are being renovated each year, and an additional 1.5 million new homes being built each year, there is great opportunity to provide homeowners with services that will enable them to lower their energy and water bills while helping to protect our environment. In Oregon, we are seeing the beginning of such watergy services, as water efficiency efforts are being included in home performance audits (see “Who Says Water and Electricity Don’t Mix?” p. 8). America’s concern with water issues is rising. In some regions this concern is even surpassing that for rising energy prices. Where Home Performance with Energy Star programs exist, the opportunity to piggyback energy efficiency installations with water efficiency components (watergy) will ensure even greater monetary benefits for the homeowner and environmental savings for the rest of us!

An important task in promoting the efficient use of watergy is educating consumers on how limited a resource water is, and on its life cycle costs. They need the full story of how water is supplied, consumed, and discharged. With a greater understanding of our water system—how water is treated, how it finds its way to our homes, how much our appliances use, how much we consume daily, what happens to water once it goes down the drain, and ultimately how it is billed—the consumer’s appreciation of the inherent value of water and its energy costs will increase. Not to mention that all this will increase the likelihood of changing the homeowner’s water use behavior.

As Ronnie Cohen says in “The Water-Energy Nexus” (p. 36), to be successful in promoting watergy efficiency best practices, “Water and energy should be as closely linked in people’s minds as peanut butter and jelly,” and “When it comes to saving energy, turning off the tap is like turning off the lights.” So turn these pages and learn new ways to make that water–energy sandwich connection.

Chandler von Schrader is a program analyst and the Home Performance with Energy Star operations manager at the EPA. He can be reached at vonschrader.chandler@epa.gov.

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