Exploring the energy-water nexus

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Mary discusses water and energy
We are delighted to welcome multifamily housing's top energy expert, Mary Nitschke to our editorial team. Mary's weekly column promises to be a treasure trove of energy strategy. Mary has moved many a sustainability/profitability mountain in working with such giants as Prometheus Real Estate Group and RealPage. Welcome Mary. --Yield Pro editorial team

I am normally not a Dane Cook fan. As far as comedians go, I am more of a George Carlin and Doug Stanhope fan. Stanhope’s “Kick How You Kick” piece basically gave me permission to be me. Carlin’s stand on Saving the planet helped me see the world differently. Dane Cook is usually a mild chuckle but not the prophetic brand of comedy I digest. Except RIOT. RIOT is the one Dane Cook piece that stuck with me, not because I found it funny or prophetic in the way that he intended. His use of the phrase “We are going to have a relationship tonight,” stuck with me. Cook was talking about his audience like he was going to briefly date them. I took the phrase into my mind, dropped the word “tonight” and saw the interconnectedness of things that might not necessarily be seen in conjunction.

This is why the Department of Energy’s focus on waste intrigued me and, in exploring the topic, I discovered how the utility categories of waste and energy had an interconnection of sorts. In the spirit of these interconnections, it is germane that we also discuss water and energy. If two lovers were ever so entwined, it is these utilities. Consider this relationship:  we would not have either commodity in its current iteration without the other. There is an energy-water nexus.

For example, when you turn on the faucet, water comes out. Magic? Nope. Energy in the forms of pumps that move water from point A to point B. Unless you are walking to the babbling brook with a bucket, there is energy involved in that water’s movement. Additionally, there is filtration done to that tap water to ensure it is safe to drink. Thank you, energy, for potable water. We have not even explored heating the water, which is what most people think about when they think of water and energy. The reality is that treatment and movement of water takes more energy in totality than point of service water heating. Fun fact, (per the California Department of Water Resources), 12% of the state’s electricity budget is related to pumping and moving water.

Then let us talk about energy’s need for water, starting with natural gas. The process of fracking requires water. In fact, one natural gas well will require three to five million gallons of water to extract the natural gas. Electricity takes about one-half gallon of water to produce one kWh. Think about that when you are playing your Xbox tonight.

Since we are all interconnected, we are going to have a relationship with our utilities. When you turn off lights in unused spaces, fix your daylighting sensors and conserve energy, you are saving water. When you fix that dripping hose bib, you are saving electricity. Even if you cannot see it on your bill, thanks to the nexus, you are doing greater good than you might initially realize.