Rethinking the water sector

Energy needs water, and water needs energy

Energy needs water, and water needs energy

The mutual dependence of energy and water and increasing global demand for each has an enormous impact on economic growth, environmental sustainability and our future in general.

Yet digitalization and existing technologies designed to create an energy-neutral water sector are already available. A more energy efficient water distribution system automatically helps reduce water leakage. Less energy is used. Less water is wasted.

Solving the future energy challenges of the water sector, today

Decoupling the water sector from energy use

The International Energy Agency report – World Energy Outlook – explores the water-energy nexus, not only highlighting the challenges we’re facing but also the potential of achieving an energy-neutral water sector.

Existing technologies designed to reduce energy consumption in all stages of the water cycle – from production and distribution to wastewater pumping and treatment – already exist. Denmark is expected to achieve this goal within a few years. Not only can the water cycle be made more efficient, it has the potential to actually generate energy. And as part of optimizing the energy consumption in the water distribution system, water leakage will be automatically reduced.

A game-changer approach

A win-win solution

Apart from tackling the water scarcity problem by reducing water loss, an energy-neutral water sector also contributes to reducing CO2 emissions and brings significant savings in the OPEX and CAPEX of utility companies.

Read more about applications and solutions for Water and Wastewater

How Europe can make its water sector energy neutral?

The new EU Drinking Water Directive could be the tool to reduce water loss, cut energy consumption and deliver better quality of water.

It is time to accelerate investments into more sustainable drinking water management to significantly reduce water leakage and energy consumption.

Key measures for making it happen:

1. Unlock investments in energy efficiency and digitalization
  • Enhance awareness on energy performance and leakage rates across the whole water supply chain, from raw water extraction to tap delivery.
  • Introduce a new labelling scheme for the energy performance of water suppliers.
  • New business models such as energy performance contracting (energy service companies (ESCOs)/ third party financing) are ready for investments. The EU Drinking Water Directive must overcome market failures (e.g. lack of awareness and transparency).
2. Increase transparency about energy use and water losses in the European water sector
  • The Directive should grant that information on water losses and energy use, including costs, is passed on to consumers on regular basis without having to request it.
  • The largest number of population supplied with water should receive such information.
3. Enforce reduction of water leaks to de-risk contamination through leaky pipes
  • Member states need to evaluate the risk of infiltration of hazardous substances or microbes through leaky pipes.
  • Adopting a national leakage rate target of 10% will accelerate investments.
4. Make information easy to understand by the public and comparable between member states
  • National data on energy use and water supplier losses need to be gathered on a regular basis.
  • Member states and the Commission must track progress and compare the state of energy performance and water sector leakage rates.
  • This information should be published in user-friendly overviews.
5. Think circular economy
  • The Directive is important in ensuring a coherent supply because drinking water and wastewater are inextricably linked. This connection to circular economic thinking should particularly be emphasized. 

Related insights

Cities meeting ambitious sustainable goals

With cities representing three quarters of energy consumption and 80% of CO2 emissions worldwide, looking at water as a resource, and not as waste, is of paramount importance.

The mayor of Aarhus explains how an energy neutral water system helps his city meet its zero-carbon goals.

Get a quick overview on the potential of an energy-neutral water system
Engineering the Energy Union Event

Watch the video on Euractiv website to learn how electric motors and water systems can help achieve policy goals.