Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Energy-Water Nexus: Amount of Energy Needed to Supply, Use, and Treat Water Is Location-Specific... GAO

This Government Accountability Office report (GAO-11-225), dated March 23, 2011, finds (from the Summary) "Comprehensive data about the energy needed for each stage of the urban water lifecycle are limited. In particular, few nationwide studies have been conducted on the amount of energy used to provide drinking water and wastewater services, and these studies do not consider all stages of the lifecycle in their analysis.

Specialists GAO spoke with emphasized that the energy demands of the urban water lifecycle vary by location. Considering location-specific and other key factors is necessary to assess energy needs. The specialists mentioned such factors as the topography of the area over which water is conveyed, the level and type of treatment provided, and the quality of the source water.

A variety of technologies and approaches can improve the energy efficiency of drinking water and wastewater processes, but barriers exist to their adoption. Installing more efficient equipment, adopting water conservation measures, and upgrading infrastructure are among some of the approaches that can decrease energy use, according to specialists GAO spoke with and studies GAO reviewed. For example, technologies to identify potential pipeline leaks throughout water systems can reduce water loss and the energy required to pump and treat that "lost" water. However, according to specialists, adoption of technologies and approaches to improve energy efficiency may be hindered by the costs of retrofitting plants with more energy-efficient equipment and competing priorities at treatment facilities, among other barriers.

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