Energy & Water
Energy and water are inextricably linked. Because water is heavy and must move through many process steps before it reaches customers’ taps, public water supply and treatment is one of the world’s most energy-intensive systems. Before it reaches the consumer it has typically been pumped from the source to the treatment facility, where further energy will be used in the treatment process. Water will then be pumped to a treated water reservoir and may require further pumping in the distribution system. Throughout the process, there can be additional inefficiencies if water is lost in the system due to leaky pipes. Once in customers’ homes there is more energy used in order to heat water for showers, washers and cooking. Additionally, we use energy to treat and discharge wastewater.
American Water has an overarching goal to reduce the energy footprint of our water services. Reducing energy intensity of our water services achieves several goals at once. Energy efficiency helps to reduce costs and drive down our operating expenditures – cost savings that can be translated into savings on our customers’ water bills. Additionally, by reducing the embedded energy in water, American Water also reduces greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions that impact climate change.
American Water has a goal to lower our GHG emissions per volume of water we produce by 16 percent from 2007 levels by the year 2017. We have a number of programs in place to meet this goal (read more in our environmental performance section, but our primary focus is by improving the energy efficiency of the water pumping process, which accounts for approximately 90 percent of the company’s GHG emissions. Additionally, water conservation represents an important opportunity to reach substantial energy savings and is consistent with our vision of more sustainable water management.
Increasing Pump Efficiency
The vast majority of our electricity consumption is used to pump water from source to treatment and storage facilities and on to our customers. Improved pump efficiency is an opportunity to reduce energy use and decrease our carbon footprint.
We are testing the efficiency of our pumps, evaluating the alternatives for improvement, and designing enhancements. For example, our maintenance services group routinely conducts "wire to water" testing of our large pumps to identify any pumps that are not operating at optimal efficiency. We also track an Energy Usage Index which calculates the amount of energy to pump a thousand gallons of water to identify locations where improvements in energy use are possible. We have updated our engineering standards for pump stations to incorporate the latest designs for efficiency. We have added new pump efficiency projects to our five year-capital plan and will be executing on the projects over the next seven years.
Water and Energy Conservation
All water conservation measures reduce the volume of water pumped, treated, and distributed to customers, reducing treatment costs and saving energy and costs at each of those steps.
Reducing Water Loss
American Water is working toward reducing the amount of water that lost in the system due to leaks in pipes or mains. We have a variety of programs in place to detect and repair leakages. These include acoustic leak detectors that can continuously monitor vibrations in pipes so that we can pinpoint where necessary repairs or replacements are needed. Additionally, pressure management can reduce surges that lead to leaks. Once leaks are found, American Water develops an action plan to reduce them through different options such as replacing pipes, repairing pipes, or installing devices to protect vulnerable pipes.
Learn more about our water conservation efforts.
Reducing Energy Use
Although lighting accounts for less than one-half of one percent of American Water’s electricity use, facilities are incorporating high efficiency lighting technology to reduce energy use. American Water is working to improve its efficiency of its fleet of cars and trucks and has implemented a "no idle policy" to improve fuel efficiency. In Pennsylvania we are piloting a technology that allows our large energy consuming sites to reduce their electric consumption during peak events or times of energy usage. This "demand management" technology will avoid the need for additional power generation and reduce energy costs for our customers.