Drinking Water: Division Helps Water Systems Uncover Energy Cost Savings

By Frances Bernards

The “water-energy nexus” has been getting a lot of press lately—the nexus being the relationship between how much water is used to generate and transmit energy and how much energy it takes to deliver water to homes, businesses, and industry. While awareness has been growing about the amount of water needed to produce energy, less attention has been given to the energy needs of the nation’s water systems.

How much energy are we talking about? Researchers at the University of Texas at Austin tackled that question in their 2012 peer-reviewed study “Evaluating the Energy Consumed for Water in the United States.” Study results indicate that 12.6 percent of the energy consumed in 2010 by the U.S.—over 600 billion kilowatt hours per year—is used to deliver water. In fact, the energy used to generate electricity for pumping, treating, heating, cooling, and pressurizing water in the U.S. is approximately 25 percent more than is used for residential or commercial lighting.

So, how does Utah’s energy consumption compare to the national average? The Utah Division of Water Resources estimates that 7 percent of the state’s energy consumption is water-related.

The Division of Drinking Water (DDW) recognizes that you cannot have water without energy. Since energy accounts for a significant amount of the cost of delivering water, a rise in energy costs would have a huge impact on the price and availability of water.

To address this issue, DDW put together a comprehensive Drinking Water Energy (Cost) Savings Handbook (Handbook) to provide water system operators and managers with strategies for reducing the amount of power necessary to provide water to their customers. Using the Handbook, water system operators and managers can find:

  • Ideas that they can implement by themselves
  • Ideas requiring assistance from a consultant
  • Ideas requiring equipment replacement and/or construction

The Handbook also offers information on energy audits, financing approaches, the Request for Qualification (RFQ) process for finding the right consultant, and Utah case studies. DDW is also partnering with the Rural Water Association of Utah on training courses for water system operators on ways to implement these cost-savings measures.

The energy efficiency strategies in the Handbook can help water systems save a significant amount of money on their power bills—not just today, but in the coming years, when future rate increases could impact the costs of water delivery.

What kind of cost savings are we talking about?

  • Mountain Regional Water Special Service District (Summit County) saved over $300,000.00 per year on projects throughout their system
  • Logan City (Cache County) saved nearly $119,800 per year by adding a new pressure zone
  • Riverton City (Salt Lake County) saved over $42,000 per year on modifications to a single pump station

Each of these water systems implemented one or more of the strategies listed in the Handbook.

In the past, civic leaders and drinking water professionals have addressed water and energy as two separate issues. With future rate increases in mind, DDW gives water system operators and managers the tools to give both issues the consideration they demand.

Interested in learning more about energy cost-savings strategies? Check out the Drinking Water Energy (Cost) Savings Handbook and watch for upcoming trainings on the RWAU Training Calendar. You can also register to attend the first annual Water and Energy Nexus Summit on January 22, 2015, at the Utah Local Governments Trust in North Salt Lake. Keynote speaker Alan Matheson, Governor Herbert’s Environmental Advisor, will be joined by Dr. Laura Nelson (Office of Energy Development), Ken Bousfield (DDW), and Walt Baker (Division of Water Quality).

Energy EfficiencyI am an environmental scientist working as a consultant for DEQ’s business assistance program. I provide businesses with pollution prevention and sustainability resources. Outside of work I am an avid mountain/road biker, hiker, and skier and enjoy the music scene in Salt Lake City.