Solar’s Secret Power: Water Conservation

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In 2014, the weather has been extreme.

As the polar vortex returns for an encore in the Midwest and East Coast, California faces the extreme flip-side: a soil-cracking drought during the state’s traditional rain season. It’s a grim stat sheet. The last 13 months are the driest on California record. 63 percent of the state is enduring what The U.S. Drought Monitor classifies as ‘extreme’ drought conditions. This month could be the first rainless January in Los Angeles on record, and the typical rainy season we experience in the Bay Area simply hasn’t appeared. Let’s all do a rain dance and hope we get something, anything, soon.

But more importantly, let’s also take action. Let’s save water by going solar.

According to a Union of Concerned Scientists 2011 report “Freshwater Use by U.S. Power Plants: Electricity’s Thirst for a Precious Resource,” electricity used to power U.S. homes consumes more water than all other household activities combined. More than our faucets, showers, toilets, and lawn sprinklers!

That’s because nuclear, natural gas and coal use tens of thousands of gallons of water per megawatt hour. Meanwhile, solar uses none. Water conservation isn’t the first thing people think of when they think of solar’s benefits, but it’s one of the most important.

It’s time to factor water conservation into decisions on energy and electricity. We’ve already seen success on this front. Through the California Solar Initiative, SolarCity and other companies have deployed enough solar to conserve 684 million gallons a year for the state.

Humankind seems increasingly unable to tackle big problems until they become crises. As we continue to rely so predominantly on fossil fuels and nuclear power to generate electricity, we continue to waste water resources that will only become more precious with time. With discussions already underway about water rationing, economic damage to California’s agriculture and livestock industries and enormously expensive ‘fixes’ (billion dollar desalinization plants), it’s time to do more with a tool that’s ready to be deployed today and ready to make a real difference.