This 2013 Awards Season, Here Comes the Energy-Water Nexus

Your office water cooler might be abuzz this awards season with speculation over whether Ben Affleck can continue his hot streak after his Argo Golden Globes' upset wins, or if Kathryn Bigelow with her film, Zero Dark Thirty, was overlooked in the Best Director category for political reasons.

With all this awards season excitement, the question on our lips at Ecocentric is: Who won the Exemplary Programs that Save Both Energy and Water Awards? (And should we call them "The Exemplies" for short?)

These awards - in their inaugural year - were launched in partnership by the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE) and the Alliance for Water Efficiency (AWE). The deciding criteria for selection from the nominee pool was based on program success in being the "most innovative and comprehensive" programs in achieving "both water and energy savings through efficiency." Five winners and seven honorable mentions were chosen from nominees accepted from the United States, Canada and Australia.
According to Steven Nadel, Executive Director of ACEEE:

Historically, water and energy efficiency programs have generally not worked together, but the natural relationship between saving water and saving energy has recently spurred some efforts to collaborate. These awards highlight the huge potential for savings when you combine water and energy efficiency together.

This perspective coincides with our views here at Ecocentric, where we continually emphasize the need for a comprehensive "nexus approach" when assessing the use of energy and water - not to mention food - because of their constant interactions and often inherent interdependencies. In fact, this is the primary theme in our new GRACE issue paper, Food, Water and Energy: Know the Nexus. In practical terms, joint water and energy efficiency programs make sense considering that any recommendation for improved efficiency of a home, facility or operation typically starts with an audit of both water and energy use. And as is often the case, saving water means saving energy and vice versa.

Below are the five award-winning water-energy programs (check them out in the ACEEE Water-Energy Program Directory):

  1. Southern California Edison: Leak Detection Pilot Program: The electric utility is providing auditing services water utilities intended to reduce direct water use leakages as well as indirect water used in to produce electricity (e.g., power needed treat, convey, distribute).
  2. Darden Restaurants: Darden Sustainability--15 X 15 : Darden Restaurants, the world's largest full-service restaurant company, beat its goal of reducing water and energy usage at its facilities by 15 percent before the year 2015.
  3. City of Boulder, Colorado: Energy Performance Contracting Program: Through a combination of energy and water conservation measures, renewable energy technology and "smart building solutions," the city was able to "significantly reduce energy use, water use, carbon emissions, and costs" in 66 facilities.
  4. Massachusetts Water Resources Authority (MWRA): Long Term Sustainability Program: The authority has saves 140 million gallons of water a day when compared to 1980 while saving millions of dollars in energy costs since the programs debut.
  5. United Technologies Corporation (UTC): 2015 Sustainability Goals: UTC requires comprehensive water and energy audits of their sites to help "focus and prioritize conservation opportunities."

For more on awards process, the specific joint water and energy efficiency programs award-winners and honorable mentions, as well as the advantageous role that such programs can play in balancing the nexus, read the report, Tackling the Nexus: Exemplary Programs that Save Both Energy and Water.

The importance of such innovative water-energy programs can't be overlooked and will undoubtedly grow, a sentiment expressed by Mary Ann Dickinson, President and CEO of AWE. "These programs represent a promising start that needs to be nurtured and expanded."