Water efficiency in energy production and industry
The USGS shows that national water use declined 13% between 2005 and 2010, resulting in the lowest water use in 45 years. Although economic factors like the 2007-2009 recession played a role, the decline was driven largely by measures under the Clean Water Act to limit excess heat from the water.
In 2010, power plants on average used 19 gallons of water to produce 1 kWh of electricity, down from 23 gal/kWh in 2005. Thermoelectric generators have reduced water demand by using recirculation, dry-cooling, and other cooling technologies. Furthermore, in 2014, the EPA finalized rules to limit cooling water intakes of power generation and industrial facilities in order to protect fish and aquatic life.
The EPA’s rules are encouraging manufacturers to use, reuse, and recycle water at oil refineries, semiconductor factories, and food processing facilities for fruits, vegetables, and meats that require large volumes of water. Moreover, the agency has recognized corporations, municipal water systems, and even individuals for their efforts to conserve water. In 2007 Intel was awarded EPA’s Water Efficiency Leader Award for their success in saving 5.2 million gallons of water daily at their Arizona campus. Through a combination of programs, Intel achieved a 75% reuse rate of it water, saving enough water for 280,000 homes.