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Every industry seems to have its share of pontificators and doers. No question, we need both. Sometimes, if we are lucky, we get a blend of pontificators that have some “doer” in their DNA and they get in there and make things happen. But in the field, are the doers. They get their hands dirty. In the energy shortage era, one group of doers that stepped up to the plate was energy service companies (ESCOs). They not only identified energy efficiency opportunities, but they put their money where their mouths were and guaranteed the savings. Through the years, ESCOs increasingly did water efficiency measures and some did exclusive water efficiency packages. They were, and are, called WASHCOs.

Now, with energy prices relatively low, I encourage ESCOs that are biting their P&L fingernails to look at the growing needs in water scarcity and how they might fit in. Instead of judging potential projects on their payback (ROI), look at the driver of availability. Not just initial access, but available whenever needed. Availability has economic implications. Water is essential to company operations and our very lives.  It is the coin of the realm. Check out the people who depend on the Colorado River and the dwindling supply.  Visit with the people in Atlanta, who think Lake Lanier is running short. The enterprising ESCO is apt to turn into a permanent WASHCO. We’ll be fortunate if they do.

Too often we overlook the inextricable link between energy and water. We cannot have water without energy; and we can’t have energy without water.  Reports show that utilities use a tremendous amount of US domestic water.  Can’t we do something about that? In all the literature regarding the California drought, I have yet to find any mention of the utility consumption. Wow! What a treasure trove for pontificators and doers. Water, energy and money all in one spot.

We cannot afford to ignore the smaller measures though. Look at the solutions out there. Some save money, too. Water Notes earlier mentioned some cost effective measures; such as the Dow reverse osmosis membrane, which can improve the economics in making reuse water available. Or, help with desalination. But other stuff is coming along all the time. Look at the greenhouse recirculation the Dutch are using. They have also developed a great webtool, which reportedly gives horticulturalists a greater insight into the volume and quality of their water streams, and helps them make investment decisions on such things as whether to purchase purification equipment, storage tanks for rainwater or equipment for the reuse of the flush water.

In short, the webtool is a simple way for growers to enter information after which a smart algorithm performs the complex calculations. The good news is the horticulture sector has already paid for the research work, so the tool is available for free via the Wageningen University & Research website.

Now that’s the kind of DOERS we like. We need to be sure that tool gets in the hands of every farmer that depends on the Ogallala Aquifer. Or, the Colorado River, Or, Lake Lanier.

Just maybe some WASHCOs can pass along the message.
Shirley J. Hansen 

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