A paper by Vince Tidwell, Barbie Moreland, and Katie Zemlick (all currently in or formerly members of Sandia’s Earth Systems Analysis Dept.), “Geographic footprint of electricity use for water services in the western US,” was selected by Environmental Science & Technology (ES&T) as the 2014 first runner-up for best paper in the “Environmental Technology” category.
A significant fraction of our nation’s electricity use goes to lift, convey, and treat water, while the resulting expenditures on electricity represent a key budgetary consideration for water service providers. To improve understanding of the electricity-for-water interdependency, electricity used in providing water services is mapped at the regional, state and county level for the 17 conterminous states in the Western US. This study is unique in estimating electricity use for large-scale conveyance and agricultural pumping as well as mapping these electricity uses along with that for drinking and wastewater services at a state and county level. Results indicate that drinking and wastewater account for roughly 2% of total West-wide electricity use, while an additional 1.2% is consumed by large-scale conveyance projects and 2.6% is consumed by agricultural pumping. The percent of electricity used for water services varies strongly by state with some as high as 34%, while other states expend less than 1%. Every county in the West uses some electricity for water services; however, there is a large disparity in use ranging from 10 MWh/yr to 5.8 TWh/yr. These results support long-term transmission planning in the Western US by characterizing an important component of the electric load.
Because ES&T published over 1,500 papers in 2014, being selected as a runner-up is quite an accomplishment. Selection of their paper “from this large cohort of published papers indicates the high opinion that [the editorial staff has] for this research’s novelty and significance.”