Pacific Institute Develops Water-Energy-Climate Calculator

By Paula Luu, Communications Associate for the Pacific Institute

There are tremendous opportunities to improve efficiency of household water use without affecting the services and benefits that water provides – and to reduce energy use and greenhouse gas emissions at the same time. Researchers at the Pacific Institute have developed WECalc, Your Home Water-Energy-Climate Calculator, a free online tool that empowers users with information on their water and related energy use and identifies strategies to reduce them.

WECalc asks users a series of questions about their personal water use habits and, based on their responses, estimates total water use and provides personalized recommendations for reducing that use. WECalc also helps users have a better understanding of the connections between water and energy by providing them with an estimate of their water-related energy use and associated greenhouse gas emissions.

Numerous studies show that the water conservation potential is substantial and largely untapped. Existing, cost-effective technologies can reduce household water demand by 30% to 40%, and the good news is that these currently available water-efficient technologies can help homes and businesses save water without sacrificing their quality of life. In fact, most homeowners believe that the performance, maintenance, and appearance of the efficient appliances are superior to older appliances.

Water is both heavy and extremely energy intensive to heat. As a result, capturing, treating, moving, and using water requires large amounts of energy. This is particularly true in the West, where water supplies and population centers are often separated by hundreds of miles. In California, for instance, an estimated 19% of electricity use, 32% of all natural gas consumption, and 88 million gallons of diesel fuel consumption are water-related. To put these numbers in perspective, consider that leaving the hot water running for 5 minutes uses as much energy as operating a 60-W light bulb for 14 hours! While California’s water supplies may be more energy-intensive than the national average due to the particularly long distances and elevation changes during water transport, about 80% of California’s water-related energy use is due to customer end-use, for example, the energy required to pressurize or heat water prior to use.  Since end-use energy requirements are similar across the United States, it is likely that water-related energy use is high across the country.

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