The systems that help produce and bring fresh food and energy as well as clean, abundant water to all of us, are intertwined. Here are just a few things you can do to ensure that our food, water and energy systems operate more efficiently and much more in sync with one another. (And you can discover many other opportunities to make sustainable food, water and energy choices on our Take Action homepage.)
Three Things Individuals Can Do
It takes a significant amount of water to create energy. Water is used to cool steam-electric power plants – fueled by coal, oil, natural gas and nuclear power – and is required to generate hydropower. Water is also used in great quantities during fuel extraction, refining and production. The use of corn ethanol as an alternative to oil has led to the conversion of food crops to commodity corn and large stretches of grasslands to cornfields. Many renewable energy technologies, such as solar photovoltaics (e.g. rooftop panels) and wind turbines, use essentially no water.
- Purchase energy efficient products (look for the Energy Star label) when replacing the old models. Saving energy saves water!
- Install a solar hot water system to replace or supplement your fossil-fueled water heater.
- Go renewable! Solar electric panels and many other renewable electric systems require little to no water, unlike conventional power plants.
- Use the EPA Green Power Locator to choose green power options available through your utility.
- GRACE’s Water and Energy Page
- GRACE’s Energy and Agriculture page
- GRACE’s Renewables and Efficiency page
- River Network: The Water Footprint of Electricity
- Union of Concerned Scientists: Energy and Water Use
- Saving Water Saves Energy
It takes a significant amount of energy to treat and move water. Energy is used to pump, move and treat water both for drinking and irrigation, and it is used in the collection, treatment and disposal of wastewater. Energy is also used by households and industry to heat and cool water.
- Saving water saves energy. By using less water at home – e.g. by taking shorter showers and repairing leaks right away – you will be sending less wastewater to treatment plants.
- Reduce your overall consumption. The production and distribution of every product we buy requires water. By reusing and recycling products, you can reduce your indirect water (and energy) use and lessen your impact on water resources which, in turn, can lessen your impact on food and energy production.
- Avoid purchasing bottled water. The Pacific Institute estimates that in 2006, to meet the demand for American consumption of bottled water, the equivalent of more than 17 million barrels of oil were required just to make the plastic.
- GRACE’s Water and Energy page
- GRACE’s Water and Agriculture page
- GRACE’s Biofuels page
- American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy: Water and Wastewater
- Alliance for Water Efficiency
Energy has always been essential for the production of food. However, as a result of the industrialization and consolidation of agriculture, food production has become increasingly dependent on energy derived from fossil fuels through the use of fertilizers and machinery. Water is, of course, essential to our food system, and what we eat everyday makes up around 50 percent of our total water footprint. The more processed foods, meat and dairy we eat, the more water we consume. So when we waste food, and the US squanders between 25 and 50 percent of its food supply each year, we’re also wasting water and energy.
- Reduce food waste! Wasted food translates to wasted energy and wasted water.
- Eat less meat. An estimated 1,800 to 2,500 gallons of water can go into a single pound of beef; that’s far above the water requirements of vegetables and grains.
- When and where possible, buy grains, fruits and vegetables grown with water-friendly best practices, like drip and other “micro” irrigation methods.