Bringing to Light the Invisible Link Between Water and Energy

When hot water comes out of the shower in the morning, most of us take it for granted. That’s because a big part of what makes this modern convenience possible—the energy used to pump the water, treat it and heat it—is largely invisible to us.

For that reason, the energy-water nexus is easy to overlook. However, thanks to Cleantech San Diego, the spotlight was recently turned on the connection between the world’s two most critical resources. Cleantech hosted a forum titled “Building a Resilient, Smart, and Sustainable City: The Energy-Water Nexus.” 

A panel of experts from academia, the public sector and private industry shared their insights last Friday with an audience of about 200. Among the panelists were Scott Crider, SDG&E Vice President of Customer Services, and Michael E. Webber, author of “Thirst for Power: Energy, Water and Human Survival.”

“We use energy for water, and we use water for energy,” Webber said, noting that much of the energy that the world uses daily comes from hydro-electric facilities.

Why You Shou­ld Care About the Water-Energy Nexus

As you likely know, both water and energy resources are highly climate dependent. What you may not have considered is that they face major challenges due to climate change. That’s one key takeaway from the panel discussion.

Climate scientists foresee increasing temperature, water scarcity and more intense and frequent storm events, all of which have the potential to destabilize society. Southern California is expected to continue to get drier. The panel agreed that in order to preserve our quality of life and ensure human survival, water and energy conservation is more important than ever.

Addressing the Water-Energy Nexus in San Diego

Located at the end of the pipeline for both imported water and electricity, the water-energy nexus is something that SDG&E and the region’s water providers are keenly aware of. For more than 25 years, we have been collaborating with the San Diego County Water Authority to cross-promote efficiency programs and rebates.

At the same time, we have been growing our renewable energy portfolio, so clean energy is used to deliver clean water to your home and business. Today 43 percent of the energy powering our water needs in the region, including pumping, desalinating, and heating water, comes from renewable sources, such as wind and solar, compared to the national average of about 8 percent.

It takes a tremendous amount of energy to move water from the Colorado River and the Sacramento Bay Delta to San Diego. The alternative – desalinating seawater to create our own water supply, as is being done at the Carlsbad Desalination Plant – also takes a tremendous amount of energy.

What You Can Do

Now you know about the water-energy nexus, you can take some simple steps to be part of the solution:

  • Instead of a 5-minute hot shower, take a 3-minute hot shower
  • Turn off the faucet when you are brushing your teeth
  • Install energy and water efficient devices, such as LED lights and low-flow showerheads

Need some help to make your home more efficient? Visit the County Water Authority website for rebates for water-efficient devices. Visit the SDG&E Marketplace for rebates for energy-efficient devices that can also help you save water.

If you are a parent or an educator and would like to teach the next generation about the water energy-nexus, check out the Resourcefulness learning guide.