It’s a familiar refrain—often repeated in the pages of Water Efficiency—Water and Energy are two forces, forever bound together. In fact, I’ve stated many times that I believe that the very nature of the relationship between energy and water requires that water efficiency must stand shoulder-to-shoulder with energy efficiency in the national dialogue.
Despite this complicated relationship between energy and water, their respective communities have not always worked together; instead, both water and energy professionals often find themselves operating in two separate spheres, focusing only on their own specific challenges and demands. But that balkanization is finally starting to change. In fact, just last week the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE) and the Alliance for Water Efficiency (AWE) published a white paper focusing on the complicated and codependent relationship between water and energy, along with a set of solutions and strategies to increase efficiency in both realms. The white paper, entitled “A Blueprint for Action and Policy Agenda,” addresses three categories of interest: policy/codes, research, and programs.
In the paper’s introduction, the polarized nature of the water and energy industries is addressed:
“For the past 30 years, strategies to conserve energy and increase the efficiency of energy use have been widely pursued. Similar efforts in the conservation and efficient use of water have occurred over the past 20-plus years. However, the two communities have historically not worked together in a coherent, collaborative manner, and instead generally created separate but parallel efforts. These separate activities could realize significant benefits from coordination.”
The paper is a byproduct of a joint panel of experts, brought together by the ACEEE and AWE with the goal of “developing a blueprint for realizing the substantial economic and environmental benefits to the nation from a combined approach towards more efficient water and energy systems.” Most of the 50 “thought leaders” participated in many of a full-day workshop hosted by the ACEEE and the AWE on December 9, 2010.
The Blueprint for Action and Policy Agenda outlines, “eight action steps that could lead to future economic opportunities and environmental benefits through using energy and water more efficiently.” Those steps include:
1. Increase the level of collaboration between the water and energy communities in planning and implementing programs.
2. Achieve a deeper understanding of the energy embedded in water and the water embedded in energy.
3. Learn from and replicate best practice integrated energy–water efficiency programs.
4. Integrate water into energy research efforts and vice versa.
5. Separate water utility revenues from unit sales and consider regulatory structures that provide an incentive for investing in end-use water and energy efficiency.
6. Leverage existing and upcoming voluntary standards that address the energy-water nexus.
7. Implement codes and mandatory standards that address the energy–water nexus.
8. Pursue education and awareness opportunities for various audiences and stakeholders.
In a statement about the Bluepring, AWE President and CEO Mary Ann Dickinson said, “In simple terms, every drop of water saved, saves energy, and every kilowatt of electricity saved, saves water. The nexus between energy and water has not received the national research and policy attention that it deserves. With this blueprint, we have brought together voices from both the energy and the water communities to outline what now needs to be done.”
Steven Nadel, Executive Director of ACEEE added, "With the publication of this blueprint, the water and energy efficiency communities are committing to work together to achieve the substantial economic and environmental benefits that can result from increased efficiency.”