Consumer Energy Report is now Energy Trends Insider -- Read More »

By CER News Desk on Oct 31, 2012 with 5 responses

Water Accounts for 12.6 Percent of U.S. Energy Consumption: Report

A team of researchers from the University of Texas at Austin has released a detailed report on energy use in pumping, treating, delivering, and preparing water for end use makes up no less than 12.6 percent of the nation’s total annual energy consumption is devoted to the task.

Published in September’s issue of Environmental Research Letters, a peer-reviewed scientific journal of the highest standing, the report details the investigation conducted by the team as they traced water from its source to the taps of average American households and back again. The study focused on each aspect of water delivery, including pumping from natural sources, building and maintaining reservoirs, treating the water for safety and then pumping it to individual residences and businesses, including those in the industrial sector. (See more: Water Usage in an Oil Refinery)

At its end, the study found that water treatment, delivery, and preparation (namely water heating) are among the most energy consumptive endeavors in the United States, requiring an amount of annual energy equivalent to the annual consumption of 40 million Americans. The sheer expense of maintaining and delivering fresh water serves to underscore just how precious that commodity is, potentially leading government policy towards saving water in the name of simultaneously saving energy.

“Energy and water security are achievable, and with careful planning, we can greatly reduce the amount of water used to produce energy, and the amount of energy used to provide and use water,” said Michael E. Webber, associate professor of mechanical engineering at the University of Texas at Austin and the director of this research project. “In particular, our report shows that because there is so much energy embedded in water, saving water might be a cost-effective way to save energy.” (See more: World Energy Consumption Facts, Figures, and Shockers)

The data used in the study was obtained from the U.S. Energy Information Agency, the U.S. Department of Energy and several private sources.

The report (PDF) can be viewed here:

  1. By notKit P on November 1, 2012 at 2:12 pm

    Another ‘no, really’ moment from our academic sector. 


    Yes you can save energy like in the good old days with a hand pump and outhouse.  Of course the convenience of clean running water for drinking and sanitation far outweighs the cost.  The second flaw in the logic is that water saving devices have been around for many years.  The third flaw is that the energy to pump water comes from electricity and we are not having any problem producing power. 


    When a molecule of gasoline is burned for energy it is gone forever unless it is biofuel.  When we drink a glass of water or cool a power plant, the molecule of water is not changed.  It is simple diverted from its natural path from a cloud to the ocean. 


    This is more evidence that a modern society cannot run on renewable energy alone.  However, renewable energy can be incorporated into moving water around.  Remember all the windmills on farms that pumped water.

    • By doug card on November 2, 2012 at 8:31 am

      This is more evidence that a modern society cannot run on renewable energy alone.”

      I dont see how you can say that.  ‘this’ has nothing to do with where the energy comes from


      • By notKit P on November 2, 2012 at 9:28 am

        Doug is correct that a motor to pump water does not care where the power comes from but the amount does matter.

        If 12% of power is used to maintain the basic public health standards, 12% has to come from very reliable sources.  Used to be that population was controlled by waterborne pathogen epidemics in cities.  

        If you make a list of things we need power for in an industrial society and compare it to where it comes from.

        Renewable energy is like soda pop. A little bit is fun but only if you have a source of protein in you diet.



  2. By Peter Sharma III on November 2, 2012 at 11:57 am

    My low cost windmills can provide the mechanical energy to pump nearly all USA water supply at a cost that can be amortised over a month at most thus eliminating this waste f fuel and electricity forever.

  3. By Michael "Luni" Libes on November 2, 2012 at 10:29 pm

    The headline, and research is misleading.  The 12.6 percent includes all the energy used in heating my home, other similarhomes, and the multitude of commercial buildiheat whose space heating is driven by water (a.k.a hydronic heati), despite the fact that the water in these systems are reused for decades.  The researches also count all the energy used to generate steam for space heating, which uses the water to more efficiently carry the heat vs. electricity or other means.

    This thus seems as flawed as measuring American electricity usage, and counting into that total the total electricity generated with vehicles by their alternators, which is not used beyond those vehicles.

Register or log in now to save your comments and get priority moderation!