Water and energy have an inseparable and crucial connection: conventional energy production uses water to harness energy that is then converted for use in buildings. The greater the demand for energy, the more water we use. As energy demands rise, water shortages around the world provide irrefutable evidence that we are consuming limited resources on borrowed time.
The energy data collected in 2005 alone shows that water use in commercial and residential buildings accounted for nearly 10% of total water use in the United States, according to the Buildings Energy Data Book.
Between 1985 and 2005, water use in the building sector increased 27%, while total water use increased less than 3%. The Buildings Energy Data Book notes that water use in the residential sector closely tracked population growth, while water use in the commercial sector grew almost twice as fast. Various solutions for global water and energy shortages have been proposed, but the most important is efficiency and conservation of both energy and water consumption. Below are a couple of the key water efficiency programs specific to water usage in buildings.
As a partnership program established by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), WaterSense was launched in June 2006 to promote water efficiency and secure the future of the water supply in the United States through the use of a special label on consumer products. By enhancing innovation in manufacturing to provide the market easy, simple, and water efficient products and services, WaterSense strives to decrease water use and reduce strain on water resources and infrastructure.
WaterSense labeled products and services are at least 20 percent more efficient without sacrificing performance and are easily available to consumers. To date, WaterSense has helped consumers save a cumulative 1.1 trillion gallons of water and over $21.7 billion in water and energy bills.
WaterSense also has customized guides for products, outdoor, new homes, commercial buildings and how to help spread the word on the importance of water efficiency in general.
Watergy was established in 1997 by the Alliance to Save Energy to address the link between water and energy in municipal water and wastewater treatment systems. Many municipalities’ energy is consumed by water and wastewater treatment accounting as much as 30-40% of total energy use; between 2-3% of the world’s energy is used to pump and treat water for people and industry. Energy efficiency and improvement in general can reduce water leaks, reduce energy consumption by at least 25 percent, and increase the amount of water available to end users, while yielding significant financial savings at the same time.
The Watergy program offers services in energy assessments, training, outreach, advocacy with electric and gas utilities, financing mechanism research and policy analysis, tools and knowledge to achieve significant water and energy savings that can mitigate rate increases and redirect municipal revenues toward other public services. Watergy projects have been implemented in over 100 cities across the globe, mostly in Africa, Asia, Latin America, and North America.
Watergy participants in developing countries, specifically, have saved more than 20.8 million kWh of electricity and $5 million in operating costs, and the savings continue to accumulate.