Setting the record straight on the water-energy nexus

March 01, 2010 |

In BD+C's White Paper, “Green Buildings + Water Performance” (November 2009), I was incorrectly quoted as stating (p. 40), “The most cost-effective way to save energy in California would be to reduce water use, because they wouldn't have to pump the water.” I believe I said it may or could be the most cost-effective method, due to the state's pumping intensity, but I haven't looked at this particular issue directly myself.

More importantly, a statement (p. 40) regarding our BEAMS research states: “But achieving the BEAMS estimates is not easy, either. To do so would require nearly 1.7 million older toilets to be replaced with 1.6 gpf toilets by 2015 and 5.3 million toilet retrofits by 2025, as well as more than six million top-loading clothes washers. To meet the goals of the BEAMS projection, $950 million would have to be spent by 2030 on efficient toilets alone.”

The example I gave showed that in order to match the indirectly avoided water consumption achieved by the Building Technologies Program's (BTP) energy-efficiency activities, either 1.6-gpf toilets or Energy Star clothes washers could be installed in relatively large numbers. I was trying to show the magnitude of what BTP is achieving in indirect water savings (via avoided generation and cooling water consumption at power plants).

Instead, the White Paper states that realizing our estimated results would require massive spending on toilets and clothes washers; to my knowledge, BTP does nothing with toilets. I was merely trying to show an example of equivalence, in order to convey the magnitude of what BTP could achieve through its planned activities.

Doug Elliott, Research Economist

Pacific Northwest National Laboratory

U.S. Department of Energy

Portland, Ore.

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