Living in Wyoming we are always aware of the scarcity of water. The majority of Wyoming receives less than 15″ of precipitation annually. Water, even more so, potable water, is becoming a global problem. We hear a lot about reducing water usage by using low flow shower heads and commodes, turning the tap off when possible, watering the yard in the cool hours of the day, and planting low water use plants for landscaping. These are all good ideas and I try to do them all, and teach my kids to do the same.
We also talk about reducing energy usage by getting fuel efficient cars, turning off the lights, and getting energy efficient appliances, but I don’t think I realized that by doing these things I am also reducing water usage.
There’s a great over view of how energy production uses vast amounts of water in a video entitled Water: Lifeblood of Energy, viewable online. Basically all of our electrical generation uses steam, and water plays a major role in refining oil. Here’s a few facts gleaned from the show:
- American energy production uses as much water as American agriculture
- Steam is used to generate 90% of our energy
- It takes 3-6 gallons of water to make a gallon of gasoline
- It takes a gallon of water to make one kilowatt hour of electricity (about how much an average sized air conditioner uses in one hour)
- It takes 4 gallons of water to produce ethanol and that’s not including the water to produce corn on irrigated farmlands
- Americans use more water running lights and appliances than running the tap
- Even solar thermal power requires steam generators. It’s one of the largest consumers of water per kilowatt in the energy industry
On a side note, it’s often wondered why Wyoming exports so much oil and refines so little within the state. Lack of large sources of water for refiners has been a critical factor. (Larson, T.A. 1984. Wyoming A History. pgs 163-166)