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Switching to solar saves water for humans

We are running out of water, but switching to solar can save millions of gallons of water an hour.
We are running out of water, but switching to solar can save millions of gallons of water an hour.
Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

California is in a drought emergency, and if it does not start raining soon, many communities will run out of water altogether. The water level in the Great Lakes is dropping; periodic droughts have ruined crops and killed livestock across the nation. These events will only get worse as a result of changes in our weather patterns due in large part to carbon pollution.

Water is essential for life but much of the U.S. is in danger of running out of water during the next 25 years!

Meanwhile, we are using vast amounts of water to make electricity. If you take the average amount of water flowing over Niagara Falls in a minute and triple it, that’s how much water power plants in the United States take in for cooling each minute to make electricity.

A report by the Union of Concerned Scientists revealed that it requires more water, on average, to generate the electricity that lights our rooms, powers our computers and TVs, and runs our household appliances, than the total amount of water we use in our homes for everyday tasks—washing dishes and clothes, showering, flushing toilets, and watering lawns and gardens.

We are on a glide path where our children and grandchildren will have to choose between electricity to power their life style and water to grow their food and flush their toilets. Just look at the images of California reservoirs on the evening news or the Internet.

Nuclear energy, natural gas, and coal fired power plants use tens of thousands of gallons of water to generate each megawatt hour of electricity. Solar uses no water. Water conservation isn't the first thing people think of when they think of solar’s benefits, but it is probably one of the most important. If we decide to change the way we make electricity, we can save 3 times the amount of water flowing over Niagara Falls every minute.

Policy makers, businesses, and individuals need to begin factoring water conservation into decisions on energy and electricity. If we don’t, we will run out of water, and it will be irreversible. Earth will look more like Mars than the fertile planet we know.

Already, discussions of water rationing are beginning. Expensive alternatives like desalinization plants are once again on the table. Unlike nations in the Arabian Peninsula, we do not have the billions of taxpayer dollars necessary to look to sea water to allow us to waste our fresh water resources.

As bad as California’s water emergency is, it would be much worse had the state not enacted the California Solar Initiative Solar energy has already deployed enough solar to conserve 684 million gallons a year for the state. Imagine how the photos of reservoirs would look if another 684 million gallons were missing.

Solar firms like SolarCity and other companies have installed roof-top solar in many cases with no cost to the homeowner, business, and taxpayers through power purchase agreements and similar programs. It launched a programs to use Tesla batteries to store solar energy for businesses, and using software, it manages the uses of that electricity to reduce the total electric bill.

Solar and wind energy can save water in all the drought-prone areas of the nation—Colorado, Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico even oil states like Texas and Oklahoma.

What is needed, however, is an all-in commitment by policy makers in government and in businesses to make the switch from water consuming sources of energy to solar and wind. Natural gas uses less water than coal, so it can save water as a bridge-fuel during the transition to clean energy. Fracking, however, uses massive amounts of water so it is not a sustainable solution.

America, we have a decision to make, and we must make it now. What will that decision be?

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