Rio+20 Business Focus: Reducing water and energy waste for a sustainable future

Politicians make the policy. But it’s often left to business to implement it. For this reason RTCC is featuring submissions from business across the globe in the lead up to Rio+20.

Watergy represents the strong link between water and energy. The Alliance to Save Energy explains how they have implemented their efficiency programme across the planet.

By Laura Van Wie McGrory & Arlene Fetizanan

Energy and water shortages have the potential to create crises affecting large segments of the world’s population.

The Alliance to Save Energy coined the term Watergy to describe the correlation between water and energy.

Both energy consumption and water loss in most water and wastewater systems worldwide could be reduced by at least 25% through cost-effective efficiency actions.

Using a combined water and energy efficiency approach, since 1997 the Alliance to Save Energy’s “Watergy” programme has achieved significant water, energy, and monetary savings in more than 100 municipalities in 15 developing countries, and is now being adopted in the United States.

The Alliance coined the term “Watergy” to describe the strong link between water and energy in water supply and wastewater treatment systems.

Its goal is to provide cost effective water and wastewater services while reducing energy consumption, water wastage and protecting the environment.

Watergy project activities include energy audits, automation of distribution systems, leak detection and loss reduction, pressure management, installation of metering and monitoring systems, and distribution system modeling for water and energy efficiency.

The Business of Running a Water or Wastewater Management Utility

Water utilities may be privately owned or operated, but even state owned water utilities often function like private companies: They are under pressure to cut operating costs while still meeting the demands of their (often growing) customer base.

Through technical and managerial changes in water supply systems, the Watergy approach helps utilities reduce water and energy waste, as well as carbon emissions – and at the same time achieve immediate improvements in water service and gain more revenue for system upgrades and new customer connections.

Why Watergy Matters for Industry

Because many industrial processes require both large amounts of both energy and water, great potential exists for industrial plants to achieve water and energy savings through efficiency projects similar to those implemented by the Watergy program.

Understanding the relationship between water and energy is critical for the advancement of more efficient practices in industry, as is finding innovative ways to overcome many of the same challenges faced by water and wastewater utilities.

The Watergy programme has developed proven water and energy efficiency methods that are easily adaptable to the industrial sector.

Watergy Creates Investment Opportunities

Private sector involvement in the Watergy program has included support for demonstration projects and training activities, as well as provision of energy and water saving products and services.

For example, equipment manufacturers helped support Watergy seminars and workshops for more than 4,000 utility personnel from 15 states, and were able to take advantage of business development and networking opportunities.

Reducing water and energy waste not only lowers carbon emissions but also improves service.

Vendor credit and performance contracts using ESCOs have also been critical to the success of many Watergy programs.

In Emfuleni, South Africa, the Alliance applied the performance contracting concept to a water supply system to carry out a pressure management project that yielded annual savings of 8 million kL of water and over 14 million kWh of electricity, with a payback period of less than three months.

With guidance from the Alliance, in the Lake Victoria region of Africa, three water utilities designed climate change adaptation and mitigation plans based on a climate vulnerability assessment prepared by the Alliance’s Watergy team.

With these plans, the utilities have improved their ability to attract money from private investors who are seeking to fund climate change projects and possibly capture carbon offsets.

Saving both water and energy is critical for sustainable development.

The Watergy approach provides key opportunities for water and wastewater utilities—as well as a wide range of industrial facilities—to achieve both goals simultaneously.

Watergy provides cost effective water and wastewater services while reducing energy consumption, water wastage and protecting the environment.

The Watergy Approach has been implemented in: Bahamas, Brazil, Costa Rica, Guyana, India, Jamaica, Kenya, Mexico, Panama, Philippines, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Suriname, Tanzania, Uganda and the United States.

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