Energy – Water Connection

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Did you know turning off lights when they’re not in use helps conserve water? By reducing your consumption of one resource, you actually end up conserving two.
Thermoelectric power plants produce energy by using heat sources to produce steam that generates electricity. They require large amounts of water for cooling. In addition, they use water to operate pollutant control systems that prevent sulfur, mercury, particulates and carbon dioxides from being released into the air.
Producing 1 kwh of electricity, or the amount needed to power your vacuum for two cleanings, needs about 25 gallons of water, or an average fish tank, for cooling and pollution prevention. The Minnesota’s Public Utility Commission says the average residential monthly electric use is about 900 kilowatt hours (kwh). Therefore 1 residence uses 270,000 gallons of water in just electricity use annually. That’s over twice the average annual water use for drinking, bathing, cooking, cleaning, watering, etc. which is around 127,000 gallons/household.
Power plants not located near lakes or rivers have a great impact on drinking water resources as they must pump water for cooling and pollutant prevention from groundwater sources. Because this water cannot be returned to its groundwater source once used, cooled and cleaned, it is considered “consumed.”
Importantly, 75% of Minnesotans residents get their drinking water from groundwater sources. Power plants located near rivers or lakes can pump water, use it, clean it and cool it and then return it to the lake or river. This has much less of an impact on drinking water availability as the water is being returned to its original source.
Energy and water are connected in other ways too. Water is used in extraction, processing, refining, and transportation of fuels needed for energy. Even local bio-fuels, like ethanol, use a lot of water. Creating a single gallon of ethanol consumes about 100 gallons of freshwater (some from rain, not all from irrigation).
So flip that light switch off when you’re not in the room and power down your electronics when not in use. Your lakes, rivers and groundwater supplies will thank you. Visit the www.mnenergychallenge.org/ to learn more ways to conserve energy and water, and save money.

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