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Sustainable Water Infrastructure Contacts

Pacific Southwest, Region 9

Serving: Arizona, California, Hawaii, Nevada, Pacific Islands, Tribal Nations

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What Is Thermoelectric Water Use?

Water is used to turn turbines for hydropower, to produce steam for thermoelectric power, and to cool equipment by absorbing the waste heat produced by power generation with once-through or closed-loop cooling systems. According to the United States Geological Survey’s Estimated Use of Water in the United States in 2000, about 48% of our nation’s available water was withdrawn by thermoelectric facilities. 

How Can Water and Energy Be Used More Efficiently?

Saving energy saves water. Local governments that partner with EPA and take the ENERGY STAR Challenge demonstrate their commitment to taxpayers as well as the environment.

STEP 1: Make Commitment

STEP 2: Assess Performance

STEP 3: Set Goals

STEP 4: Create Action Plan

STEP 5: Implement Action Plan

STEP 6: Evaluate Progress

STEP 7: Recognize Achievements

energy saving flow chart

Combined heat and power (CHP), also known as cogeneration, is an efficient, clean, and reliable approach to generating power and thermal energy from a single fuel source. By installing a CHP system designed to meet the thermal and electrical base loads of a facility, CHP can greatly increase the facility's operational efficiency and decrease energy costs. At the same time, CHP reduces the emission of greenhouse gases, which contribute to global climate change.

Renewable energy options—like solar, geothermal, and wind—use negligible amounts of water compared to conventional sources of energy (e.g. coal and nuclear); investing in renewables invests in water conservation! EPA’s Green Power Partnership supports the organizational procurement of green power by offering expert advice, technical support, tools and resources.

Also known as a water survey, a water audit is an excellent way to understand your current water use and future water savings. Generally, a water audit provides a detailed description of your facility’s water use, identifies potential water and financial savings, and recommends various water efficiency upgrades. Your local water district or public utility may provide you with a free water audit. If not, you can hire a consultant to conduct a water audit. Additionally, the WBCSD’s Global Water Tool Exiting EPA (disclaimer)  is a free and easy-to-use tool for companies and organizations to map their water use and assess risks relative to their global operations and supply chains.

Products that meet WaterSense criteria for water efficiency and performance carry a special label. When you use products bearing the WaterSense label in your kitchens, bathrooms and landscape, you can expect exceptional performance, savings on your water bills, and assurance that you are saving water for future generations. You can also save water by hiring certified water efficiency professionals, like WaterSense landscape irrigation professionals, Green Plumbers, Exiting EPA (disclaimer) and rainwater catchment professionals. Exiting EPA (disclaimer)

The EPA’s Green Infrastructure program has compiled information about various technologies & approaches, research, models & calculators, and case studies. You can save water and energy as well as improve water quality with green infrastructure.

Implementing an EMS is a major way your facility can be run more sustainably. Need help?  Climate Leaders is an EPA industry-government partnership that works with companies to develop comprehensive climate change strategies.

Water Reuse, or water recycling, may offer your facility a tremendous water saving opportunity. Guidelines for Water Reuse: 2012 Edition (PDF) (643 pp, 18MB) examines opportunities for substituting reclaimed water for potable water supplies where potable water quality is not required; it presents and summarizes recommended water reuse guidelines, along with supporting information.

Are you using water and energy efficiently? EPA would like to recognize your important contribution! The Water Efficiency Leader Awards recognize organizations and individuals for their leadership and innovation in water efficient products and practices. ENERGY STAR’s Partner of the Year Awards recognize partners’ special achievements in transforming their markets to ENERGY STAR. EPA presents these awards at the annual ENERGY STAR Awards banquet and reception in Washington D.C.

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Case Studies

  • National Energy Technology Laboratory’s Power Plant-Water R&D Program: Exiting EPA (disclaimer) provides background information on the relationship between water and thermoelectric power generation and describes the R&D activities currently being sponsored by DOE/NETL’s Innovations for Existing Plants (IEP) Program in the following four areas: non-traditional sources of process and cooling water; innovative water reuse and recovery; advanced cooling technology; and advanced water treatment and detection technology.

If you would like to suggest or provide additional resources, please contact Charlotte Ely (Ely.Charlotte@epa.gov).

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