© 2019 The Center for Water Security and Cooperation TM

Running out of water...and energy...

Too often, we simply take water for granted. We fully expect that water will start flowing when we turn the tap on. But what if it does not? While this is not an issue we would expect in the United States, there are a few cases that remind us that running out of water is a possibility for many American towns.

 

 

In 2012, the small town of Spicewood, Texas, ran out of water and started relying “on tanker trucks for water” when “it became clear the village's wells could no longer produce enough water to meet the needs of the Lake Travis community's 1,100 residents and elementary school.”[1] Spicewood is not the only example. East Porterville, California, is another good example of town that ran out of water recently. Following a drought, “hundreds of wells have gone dry in East Porterville, forcing the people who live there to flush toilets with buckets of dirty water, go without showers and watch their landscapes decay.”[2]

 

It is thus important to take actions to conserve our water resources to ensure continuous water supply and to ensure that future generations will also have access to quality water in a sufficient quantity. While conserving water might seem like an easy thing to do, it is important to first understand how we consume and use our water resources so that we can take the proper conservancy actions.

 

According to the United States Geological Survey, average Americans consume 80-100 gallons of water every day for their different needs.[3] While this might seem like a lot of water, we have to realize that we do not only drink water every day, but also use water to wash our hands, shower, shave, etc.

 

However, it does not stop there. We also use even more water to produce the energy that we need to keep our homes warm in the winter and cold in the summer. For example, according to the Environmental Protection Agency, “each kilowatt-hour (kWh) of thermoelectric generation requires the withdrawal of approximately 25 gallons of water, primarily for cooling purposes.”[4] While most people think that most of the water is used to drink or shower, this is a misconception. In fact, every day 161,000 million gallons of water are withdrawn in the United States to produce electricity, which accounts for 45% of the water withdrawn each day in the country.[5] At the end of the year, this means that an average household will have used more than 100,000 gallons of water through its electricity consumption. As you can see, electricity generation and consumption is an important part of our daily and yearly water consumption.

 

It is thus clear that when it comes to conserving water in the United States, energy efficiency is part of the solution, and more emphasis should be put on it by the various government agencies. In fact, it is obvious that each step we can take to make our houses more energy efficient would make a big difference. For example, replacing our old windows, heating and cooling systems, televisions, lighting systems, and appliances with new more energy efficient ones could help saving billions of gallons of water each year in the United States. While each American household can take steps to reduce its water consumption through greater energy efficiency, the power generation corporations also have an important role to play. For example, a good way to reduce their water consumption would be to adopt new generation technologies that are less water intensive.

 

As you can see, water conservation is not just about taking shorter showers and turning the tap off while brushing our teeth. While these actions indeed lead to saving some water, conservation is also about reducing our energy consumption through better efficiency.

 

 

 

[1] “Texas town relying on tanker trucks for water”, January 31, 2012, Associated Press, http://www.nola.com/weather/index.ssf/2012/01/texas_town_relying_on_tanker_t.html.

 

[2] “After years without water, taps are turned on in East Porterville”, August 19, 2016, Los Angeles Times, http://www.latimes.com/local/lanow/la-me-ln-east-porterville-20160819-snap-story.html.

 

[3] “Per Capita Water Use. Water Questions and Answers. USGS Water School.”, retrieved June 12, 2017, https://water.usgs.gov/edu/qa-home-percapita.html.

 

[4] “Water-Energy Connection”, retrieved June 12, 2017, https://www3.epa.gov/region9/waterinfrastructure/waterenergy.html.

 

[5] “U.S. Geological Survey: Total Water Use in the United States, retrieved June 12, 2017, https://water.usgs.gov/watuse/wuto.html.

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