The Water-Energy Nexus

Leaky Faucet by Maarten van Damme

Acidic water and corroded pipes conspire to leak the equivalent of 2,888 Olympic-sized swimming pools worth of Cape Breton’s treated water into the ground every year before it reaches its intended customers – that’s a 40 per cent leakage rate.

This lost water is also a massive waste of energy. Just about anything a municipality wants to do with its water – pump it, treat it or heat it – requires energy. This relationship is known as the water-energy nexus. Leaking water is, in a very real way, leaking energy, and such massive inefficiencies – right across the country – are the reason water is the new frontier of energy conservation.

In Ontario, water services represent 40 per cent of the province’s natural gas usage and 12 per cent of its electricity. Similar percentages prevail in the rest of the provinces, which means that any water conservation opportunity is also a significant energy conservation opportunity.

And there’s no lack of those opportunities. Inefficiencies abound in water delivery systems.

A recent report by Halifax’s Ecology Action Centre (EAC) takes a first look at the relationship between water consumption and energy use within Nova Scotia. It finds that the Municipality of Cape Breton uses 30.9 terajoules per year (equivalent to the energy needed to power 291 homes) in providing water services – and then 40 per cent of that energy is lost through water leakage. There’s no question the municipality could save money and energy by reducing leaks, but it’s hardly alone: the national average for water leakage among water utilities is 15 per cent.

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