Energy Use in Water Utilities: No Longer ‘Out of Sight, Out of Mind’

An estimated 3% of the United States’ total energy use is consumed by extracting, treating and conveying water.  In some municipalities, drinking water and wastewater treatment can account for up to 35% of annual energy use.

According to a news article by Circle of Blue, prices are increasing “because operational inputs such as chemicals, energy, labor and water itself are getting more expensive. That is the case in Phoenix, where over the last decade chemical costs per million gallons of treated water have increased by 493%, electricity costs by 68%, and raw-water costs by 41%.”

With energy costs and demand for potable water on the rise in over 35 states in the nation, pursuing water and energy efficiency opportunities can be a quick and effective way to save both energy and water.

EE Noon Presentation

EE Noon: The Watergy Approach, a brownbag seminar hosted on May 4, 2011, by the Alliance to Save Energy, addressed the growing interest in the water-energy link and described the capabilities of the Alliance’s Watergy program.  Watergy has helped over 40 municipalities and water/wastewater utilities assess their energy use, providing insights into improving energy efficiency in their facilities.

Policy Navigation Group President Jonathan Gledhill and Lee Ferrell, a manager from Schneider Electric who also is the Vice Chairman for the American Water Works Association Energy Management Committee, presented to a large and varied audience on the significance of energy efficiency in the water and wastewater industry and on the Alliance’s Watergy program’s unique, integrated approach.

According to Gledhill, many U.S. water and wastewater treatment facilities have evolved over time, developed in piecemeal fashion to meet growing demand.  As such, the overall system design and performance of many treatment facilities offers substantial opportunities to enhance both energy and water efficiency.

Ferrell reinforced much of what Gledhill said and underscored the fact that energy use by water and wastewater utilities is expected to increase by as much as 20% in the coming decades due to more stringent water quality standards and greater demand from population growth. According to Ferrell, automation is an important solution to improve energy efficiency in the water and wastewater industry. He stated that “technology won’t make humans smarter, but it can help us manage our energy more effectively.”

Watergy Breaks Ground in U.S. with Bucks County Water and Sewer Authority

The Alliance, in partnership with Policy Navigation Group and Process Energy Services, LLC, recently finalized the results of its first Watergy assessment in the United States with the Bucks County Water and Sewer Authority (BCWSA) located in Bucks County, Pa.

The assessment, which included seven BCWSA facilities, identified opportunities such as capital equipment upgrades and operational changes that will result in more than 4 million kWh in annual energy savings.  With these savings valued at about $361,000, such energy efficiency opportunities represent over 20% of BCWSA’s annual energy expenses. Combined, these opportunities offer a simple payback of just 2.2 years on the required investment.

For additional information, check out E&E Publishing’s ClimateWire online briefing of the seminar.