The Carbon Footprint of Water

Produced by the River Network, this report analyzes the energy and carbon emissions embedded in U.S. water supplies. This information is intended to help river and watershed groups, policy makers, and water managers understand the magnitude of water-related energy use and evaluate the potential to reduce carbon emissions through water conservation, efficiency, reuse and low impact development strategies.

The report argues that strategic water management can allow simultaneous climate change mitigation and adaptation. Smart water policies can reduce carbon emissions, while the consequent improvements in water supply and river health increase the resilience of water supplies and allow adaptation. Investments in water conservation, efficiency, reuse, and low impact development (LID) are among the most cost-effective energy and carbon reduction strategies available. LID strategies such as green roofs, bioretention areas, permeable pavement, and rainwater harvesting reduce the energy needed for stormwater treatment and provide new local water supplies.

Included is a baseline estimate of water-related energy use in the United States, as well as an overview of the energy embedded in different water supplies and end-uses. The researchers' analysis indicates that U.S. water-related energy use is at least 521 million MWh a year -equivalent to 13% of the nation’s electricity consumption. Their findings also suggest that the carbon footprint currently associated with moving, treating and heating water in the U.S. is at least 290 million metric tons a year.



Publication Date: May 2009

Authors or Affiliated Users:

  • Bevan Griffiths-Sattenspiel
  • Wendy Wilson

Related Organizations:

  • River Network


Resource Category:

Resource Types:

  • Assessment


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