It’s the ultimate two-for-one deal: Cutting water use can also substantially reduce energy usage in a couple key ways. The first is that it takes electricity or gas to heat water, so it makes sense that the more hot water a business or residence uses, the less energy-efficient it is. The second is that water companies need to use energy to purify and deliver water, as well as to treat water again after it goes down the drain.
About 8 percent of the electricity used in the U.S. is for the delivery and treatment of potable water. In California, 19 percent of electricity is used for delivering water! 32 percent of the natural gas consumption is for treating water and wastewater. Those costs are baked into your water and sewage bills.
Here are a few ways to improve water efficiency and cut energy use at the same time.
Evaluate your hot water heater
The most obvious place to look when seeking to cut water and energy use is your hot water heater. Did you know that running a hot water faucet for five minutes consumes as much energy as using a 60 watt light bulb for 14 hours? In residences, tankless water heaters that work on demand rather than continuously heating hot water cost more money up front than standard tank water heaters, but they result in more water and energy savings in the long run.
Smaller point of use water heaters can also be an option in an area of a business that isn’t used frequently, like restrooms in a small office.
Look for leaks
Along with simple tips like taking shorter, cooler showers and running the hot water in faucets only when necessary, you can also improve energy use by checking for hot water leaks.
Hot water leak detection can’t always be discovered by meter monitoring. According to the Environmental Protection Agency’s WaterSense program, one of the best options is to make it a priority to train employees or family members to report leaks in restrooms, kitchens or anywhere else there are hot-water faucets.
Another way to stop leaks and reduce overall hot-water usage is to install faucets that automatically turn off water after a set time. WaterSense-labeled faucets and accessories, such as aerators, can reduce a sink’s flow by 30 percent, according to the EPA.
Wash more efficiently
The EPA reports that showering accounts for 17 percent of all residential water use. WaterSense showerheads use 20 percent less water than regular showerheads, without diminishing flow. According to the EPA, replacing a standard showerhead with a WaterSense model can not only save the average family 3,900 gallons of water a year, but also 370 kilowatt hours of electricity annually. Consequently, the U.S. public water supply and treatment facilities consume about 50 billion kilowatt-hours per year. That’s enough electricity to power more than 4.5 million homes for an entire year!
In the laundry room, the ENERGY STAR®–certified clothes washers use about 25 percent less energy and 45 percent less water than regular washers. That’s because they don’t use a full tub of water on wash and rinse cycles, but rather rely on sophisticated spray and tumble systems.
The EPA provides information about specific products that can help you save water and energy on its WaterSense site.
Learn more about how water use is dependent on energy in our Water-Energy Nexus e-book.