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The Water-Energy Connection

While there is much talk about conserving all of our natural resources, a point that is often overlooked is that some are interconnected. Specifically, two critical resources, water and energy, are completely intertwined. On a global scale, water and energy systems that populations are centered around in every country are interdependent on each other. This is how our civilized energy and water systems have been developed over time; one can’t exist without the other.

Every form of energy production – from hydroelectric to natural gas to nuclear to solar, requires water in one form or another. Water is used in various forms to produce energy, such as to turn massive turbines. Power plants can only store electricity if water is used to cool their towers. Water is also a crucial part of the drilling and mining of fossil fuels like natural gas, coal, and oil.

On the flip side, vast amounts of energy are used to extract water from aquifers and wells, and to pump it through pipes to reach each of our homes. More energy must be used to treat that same water after it is used, at places like our local Water Reclamation Facility, before it can be used as reclaimed water. This wastewater is often used in agriculture, or irrigation in areas such as golf courses.

This situation is referred to by many as the “water-energy nexus.” Environmentalists, government agencies, and scientists have been studying this paradox for years. There is concern that global warming will increase demands on water, and require that it be transported further to meet the needs of growing populations. Certain places will become more dry, and receive less rainfall so that water will need to be brought in from surrounding areas. This will expend more energy and may cause an imbalance in the energy-water stasis in the future, where one resource cannot support the needs of the other any longer. This is one of the reasons why conservation is so important.

The good news about these two resources being so interdependent is that the conservation of one has a positive impact on the other as well. Large-scale efforts made by corporations are making a difference, such as initiatives taken by auto manufacturers and others to stem the use of water and energy in their production processes around the world. Changes in government policy that force entire populations to change their ways, or offer incentives to farmers that conserve water are other areas of progress. Agriculture is by far the largest water consumer, accounting for 69% of annual water withdrawals globally, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. Water usage improvements in this industry are key to preserving the resource.

UCNSB Community Conservation

To do our part, New Smyrna Beach Utilities Commission has developed a variety of programs for our residents to get the most out of our water and energy supplies.

  • We offer helpful conservation tips and videos on TogetherWeAreAble.org.
  • Our facility uses an inverted block rate structure for potable water and wastewater to encourage conservation and discourage wasteful water use. Consumption amounts are separated into four blocks, with rates per 1,000 gallons increasing as a customer’s consumption increases. With this type of structure, customers who use less water pay a lower rate than customers who use more water.  
  • We encourage conservation by offering rebates to our customers for energy-saving improvements that they do to their homes.
  • We offer a Load Management Program which helps save energy. With this program, we install a load management receiver on the central air/heat unit and/or water heater of our customer. This radio-controlled unit enables the UC to shut off appliances for a few minutes during certain time intervals. Most people do not even notice when load management is in use. This arrangement also saves the customer money.
  • We enforce schedules for watering of lawns and sprinkler use at certain times of the year to prevent NSB residents from wasting water.

UCNSB is committed to ensuring that there are enough resources for our community for decades to come. We continue to develop innovative ways to serve our growing population, while making improvements to our water and energy conservation initiatives.

YOU Can Make a Difference

There are ways that each and every member of our community can help preserve our water and energy. It may seem like a small contribution, but if each person does a little, the results will add up to big change. It’s easy to go through daily housekeeping without stopping to think about how simple tasks might be wasteful. Remember, when you use hot water to clean, you aren’t only consuming water – but also the energy required to deliver that water through your pipes, and then heat it.

Consider when you’re doing dishes; the temperature of the water doesn’t need to be very hot in order to clean, if you are using soap as well. Try using colder water, and also turning the faucet off while you are washing each dish instead of letting it run the whole time. Also, scrape leftover food off of dishes instead of rinsing them. An even better option, if available, is to use a dishwasher. When dishwashers are completely filled before each use, and suited to the size of the household, they use much less hot water than washing dishes by hand.

The same is true when washing laundry in the washing machine. Modern detergents work very well removing dirt and grime from clothing, and there are even special types that are just as effective in cold water. Washing clothes in cold water when possible is a great option for reducing energy use. Only use hot water on loads of laundry that are heavily soiled, and make sure you have a full load before starting a wash cycle.

Here are some other quick and easy adjustments that can be made at home to help reduce energy and water consumption:

  • Make sure that your appliances fit the size of your household. Oversized refrigerators or dishwashers are wasteful if there are only a couple of people in the house.
  • Buy Energy Star appliances. Look for high-efficiency features such as automatic shut-off.
  • Install low-flow aerators on faucets. Replacing these screw-on tips can reduce the flow rate so that you use less water every time you use the faucet.
  • Check regularly for leaky faucets, which can waste 1,600 gallons of water each year.
  • Assess your water heater to make sure it fits your needs. If it is too big, you’re using energy to heat water that you don’t need, and it may be time to replace it.Turn down your water heater’s thermostat to 120 degrees. This is an adequate setting for showering, cleaning, and other needs without being wasteful. It is also helpful to insulate your water heater tank. This will help the water stay hot once it is heated.
  • Insulate hot water pipes. Water loses heat as it flows through the pipes, especially those within 3 feet of the tank.

When it comes to conservation, a little mindfulness goes a long way. Together with UCNSB, we can all play a role in helping to sustain our natural resources and stay on track to a bright future for New Smyrna Beach. Check our website often as we continue to add more tools and resources for minimizing each person’s impact. As an added bonus, many of these items also save our customers money on utility bills, or through rebates as well!