Watts and Water: New Report on Water-Energy Nexus in the Southeast

The Southeast's already suffers from water shortages, US Drought Monitor, September 11, 2007
Author: Bevan Griffiths-Sattenspiel

The World Resources Institute, an environmental think tank based in Washington D.C., just released a report on the water-energy nexus in the Southeast. This report looks at both sides of the water-energy coin--the water required to generate power and the energy required to supply, treat and heat water. The report is full of useful facts and numbers, as well as policy recommendations that can be used to educate the policy makers and the public about the importance of understanding the link between water and energy.

The report is the result of work between WRI, the Southeast Energy Efficiency Alliance and Southface to identify opportunities to advance solutions that address both energy and water challenges in the region. In an article highlighting key findings from Water and Watts, Eliot Metzger, a co-author of the report, describes the magnitude of the water-energy connection in the Southeast:

Electric power production in the Southeast draws about 40 billion gallons of water daily (65 percent of total freshwater withdrawals)—about equal to the freshwater withdrawals for public supply across the entire country.

Meanwhile, the energy needed nationally to treat water and wastewater can account for a more than 30 percent of municipal energy costs and an average home can spend upwards of $250 per year on energy needed for hot water.

That means that nearly 2 out of every 3 gallons of water withdrawn in the Southeast is used just to cool thermoelectric power plants, and even more is used to grow biofuels or extract the raw resources (coal, petroleum) in the region. For every kilowatt hour of electricity consumed, an entire gallon of water is consumed (typically from evaporation).

It also means that, "upgrading just half the household in the Southeast with WaterSense labeled faucets or faucet aerators could save residents an estimated $40 million on their water bills and another $80 million on their energy bills."

To view the full report, download Water and Watts it in our Resource Library.

For one-page fact sheets for each state in the Southeast, check out WRI's page on Southeast Energy Policy Briefs.