Water power

Friday, September 28, 2012
by Diane Boudreau

Water is the ultimate coolant. From your body, to plants, to the engine of a car—water helps hot things chill out.

But water is a limited resource, especially in dry climates. Plants cool the environment, but they require watering. On the other hand, if your landscape heats up, you may use more electricity for air conditioning. Guess what? Producing electricity uses water!

Water is used to pump oil out of the ground, make the steam that turns turbines, remove pollutants and residue from power plants, and cool the power plant. In the U.S., burning fossil fuels for electricity uses more than 500 billion liters of water per day! Just keeping a 60-watt light bulb on for 12 hours uses up to 60 liters of water.

How can we stay cool without wasting water? Scientists at Arizona State University recommend a balanced approach. For instance, cities should focus on adding plants to neighborhoods that have the least green space. This is where they will have the biggest effect on temperatures.

There are also ways to lower temperatures without increasing water use. For example, we can use roof and pavement materials that absorb less heat. We can also increase the density of our desert cities. People grouped closer together use less water than people who are spread out.

The average American uses 80-100 gallons (300-380 liters) of water per day for drinking, washing and watering. This doesn’t include hidden water use for things like growing food or generating electricity.

In Arizona, 77 percent of all the water used by humans goes to farming. In Phoenix, about 67 percent of water goes to outdoor uses like parks, golf courses, lawns and keeping pools full.

How Can You Conserve?

  1. Adjust your sprinklers so you aren’t watering the sidewalk and street.
  2. Only run the dishwasher and washing machine when they are full.
  3. Avoid flushing the toilet too often.
  4. Refrain from running the garbage disposal. Compost when possible.
  5. Insulate your hot water pipes for quick hot water at the faucet.
  6. Fix leaky faucets and toilets promptly.