Energy Use for Water
Western states have long depended on major water transfer projects. Most of these projects, such as the Central Arizona Project (CAP), the Central Utah Project (CUP), the California Aqueduct, to name a few, tap the Colorado River. But to move these vast volumes of water, these projects also consume tremendous amounts of energy. For example, CAP is the single biggest consumer of energy in the state of Arizona.
Today, almost every western state has a proposed new water supply project—pipelines like the Regional Water Supply Project (RWSP) that would move 225,000 AF of water up to 500 miles, from Flaming Gorge Reservoir to the Front Range of Colorado. The RWSP would lift water over the continental divide, and if powered by electricity, have greenhouse gas emissions equivalent to burning 48 million gallons of gasoline each year.
Most new water supplies will be increasingly energy-intensive, with two exceptions: water conservation and recycled water.
Existing Projects in the Colorado Basin:
- California Aqueduct (Cal. Aqu.)
- Central Arizona Project (CAP)
- Central Utah Project (CUP)
- San Juan-Chama (SJ Chama)
Proposed New Projects:
- Carlsbad Desalination Plant
- Groundwater Development Project (GDP)
- Lake Powell Pipeline (LPP)
- Northern Integrated Supply Project (NISP)
- Regional Water Supply Project (RWSP) also known as the "Million pipeline"
- Southern Delivery System (SDS)
- Windy Gap Firming Project (WG)
- Yampa Pumpback Project (Yampa)
- Yuma Desalter Project (YDP)
Water conservation also saves energy and money for utilities and customers. In fact, for many utilities, energy is the second biggest cost (second only to staff salaries). And on average, heating water represents 14 - 25% of a household’s energy use.
For the household, low flow showerheads, efficient clothes washers, and faucets represent the biggest opportunities for saving energy through water conservation.
For more information on specific proposed pipelines, see WRA’s presentation on pipelines and powerplants or click directly on the links above. For detailed information about the energy intensity of water in Colorado and the potential for water conservation to reduce energy use in the state, see WRA’s report to the Colorado Water Conservation Board (CWCB). The CWCB recently published Strategies for Colorado’s Water Supply Future that describes numerous proposed supply projects.