Green Track (C-40): Pumping and Treating Water

- Session Description (click to collapse)

Water provision is an energy-intensive process. As energy resources become more scarce and expensive, the world will need smarter strategies for providing safe, sufficient water. In this workshop, we will first explore the factors that drive energy consumption, including climate, water-use patterns, source water choices, standards, treatment methods, and urbanization. The problem of energy supply will be discussed from a developed country and a developing country perspective. This workshop will then explore adaptation strategies that reduce energy use associated with water provision in both the developed and developing country context. Some questions for discussion include:

  • What are the drivers of energy consumption due to pumping and treating water that can be changed?
  • What is the appropriate scale for water-energy management and effective change?
  • What are the barriers for changing water consumption patterns in the United States? Are there good examples of effective changes in water consumption?
  • What criteria do we use to evaluate new approaches to water management? What are the trade-offs, and how do we balance minimizing energy requirements with other objectives?
  • What solutions are appropriate for a rapidly urbanizing global south?

- Moderator (click to collapse)

Luke MacDonald

Luke MacDonald is the Program Manager of The Johns Hopkins University (JHU) Global Water Program (GWP), a multidisciplinary research enterprise. Dr. MacDonald joined the GWP out of a belief that water lies at the intersection of engineering, science, policy, and public health and that we cannot solve problems in one area without addressing the others.

Dr. MacDonald’s work concerns the role of iron oxides in controlling the behavior of arsenic. This work includes the study of fundamental kinetics of bacterially driven iron reduction, the influence of flooding cycles and iron oxides on arsenic retention in contaminated, planted mesocosm experiments, and field validation of redox controls on arsenic mobility in an industrially contaminated wetland. In many places throughout the world, such environmental transport mechanisms of arsenic are linked to drinking water supply contamination in groundwater, posing a public health hazard to millions of people.

Like the arsenic problem, drinking groundwater sources with naturally high levels of fluoride can cause debilitating skeletal and dental fluorosis throughout the world. Fluoride problems in many parts of India are severe, and Dr. MacDonald has worked to develop a prototype filtration technology with the potential to lead to an effective, sustainable treatment strategy to halt the fluorosis that is endemic in rural villages.

Alongside collaborators at Princeton University, George Washington University, and the Emerging Pathogens Institute at the University of Florida, Dr. MacDonald is currently working on a paper that proposes mechanisms for improving access to water and sanitation throughout the world through global treaties and loan agreements.

Dr. MacDonald has received numerous fellowships and honors, including a Science To Achieve Results (STAR) Graduate Fellowship from the Environmental Protection Agency, an Upton Fellowship from the School of Engineering and Applied Science at Princeton University, the National Waters Research Institute Fellowship, the New Jersey Water Resources Research Institute Fellowship, and the Princeton Environmental Institute Fellowship in Science, Technology, and Environmental Policy. He was the co-author of an ENVIRON Foundation grant for fluoride mitigation and has participated in the Microbial Diversity Course at the Woods Hole Marine Biological Laboratory.


Ph.D., Civil and Environmental Engineering, Princeton University, 2010
M.A., Civil and Environmental Engineering, Princeton University, 2006
B.S., Biomedical Physics, Northeastern University, 2003

- Notes (click to collapse)


Nathan Bowen: Graduate student at the University of Maryland (Center for Integrative Research) Public Policy

Anna Prados: NASA Space Flight Program UMBC (air quality, capacity building, remote sensing, policy background), also student at UMCP

Mary Lou McCarthy: Finishing MBA at George Mason University, background in Climate Change, Adaptation, and Alter Energy Sources

Haiou Huang: Graduated PhD at DoGEE (wastewater systems, energy efficiency) apply new technologies to rural and devleoping countries

Michele Weiss: from APL, project manager for GAIA, software engineer by training

Don Anderson: APL, works with modeling analysis software, climate system modeling and analysis


-Energy consumption in water treatment and distribution
-Overview of wastewater treatment
-Factors that drive energy consumption: Climate, Volume treated, Source water, Standards for improved treatment, Type of treatment
-Developing Countries: Population pressures (3 billion additional urban dwellers forecasted by 2050), Climate, Poverty and lack of resources, Unaccounted for water (up to 65%)
-Population pressures on water supply: graph shows the skyrocketing projected shortages in seasonal shortages of water; seasonal shortages is much higher than perenniel shortages
-Population pressures on water supply: map shows areas with greatest shortages
-Water supplies in rural and per-urban zones: less energy consumption in treating and transporting water; small-scale water treatment systems (can be run off the electricity grid, gravity-powered, or manual)
-Intermittent electricity: electricity shortages results in water pumping in rural areas of developing countries only at certain times of day
-2.6 billion without improved sanitation


-Adaptation: Developed Countries
-Adaptation: Developing Countries

-Possible technology: Biogas latrine (however, very difficult to implement especially in developing countries)

-What are the drivers of energy consumption due to pumping and treating water? Fossil fuel demand? Water demand?

-Which can be changed? Fossil fuel demand? Water demand?

-Solutions for developed countries?
-Solutions for a rapidly urbanizing global south?


Energy Reduction

Water Reduction


-Examine standards tradeoff health/energy
-Pollution prevention: avoid costly treatment
-Multiple uses: multiple levels of treatment (different pipelines for different water uses; e.g. water on lawn is treated to a lower standard than drinking water)
-Industry Water Use Efficiency (gray water opportunities)
-Renewable energy sources for water use (generation and direct use)
-Treated volume decreases

-Restrictions in use (e.g. lawns, car wash, appliances, pressure regulator)
-Infrastructure improvements
-Industrial Waste Treatment
-Water conservation education


-Should these choices be Voluntary or Mandatory?


-alternatives to boiling
-build water infrastructure (displaced people are forced to move into urban areas; additionally rural areas depend on small-scale systems which are less energy intensive)
-renewable energy

-Water conservation education
-Planning (PRSP-Poverty Reduction)
-Infrastructure improvements

-Technological Innovations: Always a question of cost-effectiveness for the protection of public health; there are a lot of problems with the water transport system but the water companies don’t care because not regulated by EPA

-On the energy side it is the pumping and distribution system that is the most energy costly.

-Shifting population distribution (water stress) => some of the biggest cities in the U.S. are in the Southwest, should we be building cities there? If not, how can we restrict this?

-Gray water

  • What is the campaign cost to convince people that their water is safe?
  •  The infrastructure treatment costs are actually much less than public relations costs.
  • Gray water is used in Southern Africa (e.g. Namibia); Persian Gulf does desalination

-Improvements in Infrastructure

  • Who is going to fund this?
  • Get smarter about technologies used in developing countries

Barriers to Change in Developed Countries

  • Water is cheap
    • Pricing
  • Water Conservation
    • Behavior/Cultural Change
    • Homeowner’s Association
    • Cost
  • Gray Water
    • Promoting multiple uses (e.g. a company that could install the technology that would be used)
    • Technology (on the consumer side)
    • Initial cost
    • Economic Incentive
  • Water Reuse
    • Yuck factor
  • Infrastructure Costs
    • Retrofitting
    • New Builidings
  • Pollution prevention
    • Industrial/political resistance
    • Cost of Prevention/Treatment
    • Timeframe of regulatory process
    • Lack of reporting
  • Population Distribution/Hydrology
    • Focus on energy & water in the Southwest
    • Increase of restrictions
    • Increase pricing
    • Building Codes for Energy Efficiency
    • Zoning Restrictions
    • Southwest depends on hydropower, which is in danger because of the drought: Water conservation would affect this hydropower

Research Developments

  • Criteria
    • Temporal Reliability
    • Vulnerabilities (resilience)
    • Technology Lock-In (flexibility)
    • Economic sustainability
    • Short and long term
    • User cost vs. true cost
    • Health impact
    • Water Sustainability







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