April 3, 2015

Wind energy saves 0.077% of California’s water

The trade lobby American Wind Energy Association has asserted that “wind energy saves 2.5 billion gallons of water annually in drought-parched California”, which is “around 65 gallons per person in the state (200 gallons per household)”. With the state now requiring households to reduce their water use by 25%, “wind energy’s water savings are therefore equivalent to what would be saved by nearly one week’s worth of the required reductions for a typical household”.

Nearly 1 week! That’s nearly 2%! Of household use — which represents only 4% of the total water use in California!

In short, wind energy theoretically (the displacement of water use by thermal plants is far from the simple one-for-one picture that AWEA implies) “saves” less than eight 100ths of one percent of California’s water.

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The relatively small, albeit mostly unnecessary (almost all of it representing lawn watering), residential use not only illustrates the absurdity of AWEA’s boast, it also underscores the futility of the state’s emergency measures.

Here is the breakdown by sector of California’s water use in 2012, according to the Pacific Institute.

As one can see, besides the small amount used for lawn watering, there is another completely unnecessary use, but this one accounts for almost half of the total: meat and dairy: 47% of California’s water use.

What about almonds, it’s been hysterically asked?

Yes, among the plant crops, water use for almonds is highest, just above rice. And just above residential use in 2012. From 2012 to 2014, almond growing expanded by less than 5%. In other words, almonds are hardly the cause of the drought. It should also be noted that all nut crops (e.g., walnuts and pistachios, as well as almonds) use a lot of water. It’s because California grows more than 80% of the world’s almonds that the latter represents such a large proportion.

And again one sees the picture dominated by far by one culprit: the crops to feed meat and dairy animals: using almost 10 times as much water in California as almonds. As the Water Footprint Network has stated, “The water footprint of any animal product is larger than the water footprint of a wisely chosen crop product with equivalent nutritional value.”