The consumption of water and energy is connected in many ways. As such, when one focuses on saving water there is often a reduction in energy consumption and vice versa. This is true whether we are looking at personal usage or industrial usage.
Consider, for example, the water used for a long, hot shower. Shortening the duration of the shower will save on the quantity of water as well as the energy associated in heating the water. Additional water conservation activities such as running a clothes washer or a dishwasher only when full, save both water and energy.
On an industrial scale we see similar effects. For the most part, in paper mills water is delivered to mills from local rivers. The incoming water temperature varies seasonally, but suffice it to say river water in Maine and Minnesota (where our mills are located) is cold. Yet most of the water we use within the mills is hot. And it takes energy to heat that water. Therefore any initiatives that mills undertake to conserve water will typically result in energy savings as well.
Saving electricity also generates indirect savings of water. In fact the thermoelectric power sector accounts for nearly half of all water consumed in the US (roughly 200 million gallons per day). So simply turning off lights and other electrical devices can also lead to water savings.
While many individuals and businesses are motivated by the financial savings associated with conservation, there are also significant environmental benefits to be had. The EPA estimates that if just one percent of American homes was retrofitted with water-efficient fixtures, we could save about 100 million kWh of electricity per year and avoid adding 80,000 tons of greenhouse gas to the atmosphere.
Laura Thompson is director of technical marketing and sustainable development for Sappi Fine Paper.