Save Water, Save Energy: The Connection Between Water Use and Energy

Water and energy are tightly knit.

While the amount of energy needed to treat and deliver clean water varies tremendously by region, roughly 4 percent of the United States’ total power generation is dedicated to pumping and treating water–the largest single electricity user in many cities and towns. In southern California, for example, drinking water is pumped either from the Colorado River and its assorted reservoirs (including the nation’s largest, Lake Mead, which is now half empty) or from northern California. On a per-capita basis, energy use for water varies from about 350 kilowatt-hours a year in the South Atlantic states to more than 750 kilowatt-hours a year in the Mountain states.

Water transport, filtration and treatment are energy-intensive.

Pumped water often flows hundreds of miles through open aqueducts and sometimes, via pipelines, up and over mountain ranges. For homes on municipal water, their share of the energy required for domestic water can exceed the energy use of a refrigerator. In rural homes with deep wells, water pumping can be one of the largest electricity demands.

Conserving water saves energy.

In some states, energy-conservation programs provide rebates on water-conserving appliances and plumbing fixtures, even if those products do not use energy directly. Visit for a state-by-state listing of energy-efficiency rebates and tax credits. Any conservation measure that reduces hot water use–low-flow showerheads, front-loading clothes washers and efficient dishwashers–saves energy directly by reducing the amount of water you heat.

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