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Energy & Emissions

Why It Matters

Energy use can contribute to climate change through the emission of greenhouse gases (GHGs). Without mitigation and adaptation action, climate change could have serious implications for our business and our customers through effects on the quality and availability of water resources. We work hard to achieve a high level of energy efficiency, promote renewable energy generation and responsibly utilize transportation to help minimize our GHG emissions.

The vast majority of energy consumed by water utilities is used to pump water. In fact, roughly 4% of all the electricity in the U.S. is used for the treatment and transport of water. Indeed, around 90% of American Water’s own electricity consumption and over 80% of our GHG emissions are related to pumping water. American Water aims to reduce our energy consumption and emissions through improved water use and efficiency, so we may protect our planet for all stakeholders, save customers money and benefit our bottom line.

reduced emissions

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Our Approach

Primarily, we focus on Water Use & Efficiency methods to reduce energy use and GHG emissions. Additionally, we work with third party energy suppliers and local utilities to get the best energy price and reduce energy cost burdens on our customers. Wherever possible, we consider green energy when negotiating power purchase agreements to reduce our costs and lower our carbon footprint. We also recognize that, in many cases, environmental benefits outweigh reducing costs. When projects have known environmental benefits and/or an option to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, we will consider them even if the cost is higher than projects without these additional benefits. As a business, we also seek out energy efficiency and alternative energy rebate programs at a state and local level, where available.

American Water’s proactive approach to conserving energy and water includes:

  • Plan for efficiency: We consider opportunities to improve energy and water efficiency in our Comprehensive Master Planning process.
  • Design for efficiency: We employ enhanced pump, pressure management, lighting and process design standards.
  • Construct for efficiency: We follow sustainable construction standards and methods.
  • Operate for efficiency: We use enhanced best operating practices, leak detection and repair procedures.
  • Maintain for efficiency: We utilize computerized maintenance management systems and advanced preventative maintenance strategies to optimize performance and reliability of our equipment.

pipes

Pump Replacement

As pumps and motors age, they become less efficient, requiring more energy to move the same amount of water. Replacement of pumps and motors with more efficient units helps reduce energy consumption. Additionally, the use of technology for early detection and repair of leaks in our pipes can save water and energy, reduce overall repair costs and help us decrease our carbon footprint.

American Water has an annual program to refurbish or replace pumps. In 2018, American Water invested over $57 million in upgrading pumping stations. While many of these individual projects are smaller scale, one notable project included replacing the raw water pumps at a large regional water treatment plant in New Jersey. We expect this significant project to yield energy savings of 4,892 MWh per year and a corresponding reduction in carbon emissions of 3,459 metric tons per year. Such projects drive progress toward the 40% reduction of GHG Emissions by 2025 (from a 2007 baseline).

Pressure Management

The pressure in most water systems increases at night when customer flows decline and storage tanks must be refilled. This results in added stress on buried infrastructure, and also increases the rate of leakage. American Water is continuously testing innovative technologies and practices to reduce leakage, including developing tools and strategies that can lower water pressures at night without compromising the ability of the system to meet peak demands. Past partnerships include working with Stream Control Ltd. (an Israeli start-up) through the BIRD Foundation, an Israel-U.S. Binational Industrial Research foundation, with a mission to stimulate, promote and support industrial R&D of mutual benefit to the U.S. and Israel. American Water worked with Stream Control to assess its capabilities and effectiveness for automatically reducing pressures during low flow/demand periods so that leakage rates and water loss volumes could be minimized. Additionally, we have deployed and evaluated the latest in advanced correlating continuous acoustic monitoring technology (CCAM) and satellite imagery leak detection (SILD) to more efficiently and effectively locate leaks and reduce water loss. Such innovations are helping American Water lead the industry towards new techniques for conserving water supplies and energy.

In 2018, American Water invested over $57 million in upgrading pumping stations.

Environmental Grant Program

Through 2018, American Water’s Environmental Grant Program has provided more than $1.5 million of needed support for 462 projects to help improve, restore and protect our valuable natural resources through partnerships. Everyone is responsible for protecting the nation’s water supplies, and this program is one way we can help communities play an active role in this important effort. Last year, American Water funded 49 projects that were awarded grants totaling $188,000 for innovative, community-based environmental projects that improve, restore or protect the watersheds, surface water and/or groundwater supplies in our local communities.

To qualify, proposed projects must meet certain criteria, including addressing a source water or watershed protection need in the community.

Examples of eligible activities include:

  • Watershed cleanup
  • Reforestation
  • Biodiversity projects (habitat restoration, wildlife protection)
  • Streamside buffer restoration projects
  • Wellhead protection initiatives
  • Hazardous waste collection
  • Surface or groundwater protection
  • Education (designing and providing workshops for citizens and local officials)
Stream

EEI 1.5.4, EEI 2.5.4

Renewables

American Water maintains a portfolio of alternative energy sources to reduce GHG emissions and access cheaper, renewable energy. Our solar output in 2017 and 2018 totaled 6,694 megawatt-hours (MWh). Our total renewable energy consumption in 2017 and 2018 helped us avoid approximately 2,743 metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions. As of 2019, we are evaluating solar proposals at several locations, which would save capital and directly reduce our emissions.

Wherever possible, we consider green energy when negotiating power purchase agreements to reduce our costs and lower our carbon footprint.

Commitments/Goals

After achieving our goal to lower our GHG emissions per volume of water produced by 16% over a 10-year period (from 2007 to 2017), American Water set a new goal to reduce GHG emissions by 40% by 2025 (from a 2007 baseline).

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Our Performance

We are proud of our efforts to minimize operational energy use and the resulting emissions. We communicate our efforts with external stakeholders in our annual CDP report and, in 2019, continue to accelerate our efforts to meet our 2025 goals. We have already achieved an approximate 31% reduction in GHG emissions through 2018.

Total Renewable Energy Generated
GHG Emissions (Scopes 1 & 2)
Energy Intensity Ratio