The Water-Energy Connection

On November 18, 2010, a directive from New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg to the city’s department of parks and recreation stated that each parks-and-recreation center in the city must take significant steps to cut costs–everything from “negotiating with unions to institute furloughs to save cash” and eliminating part-time seasonal jobs to reducing the work year from 12 to nine months.

Save water, save money.

For many departments, this meant they could be essentially closed for part of the year.

And New York City is certainly not alone. Many people say the ramifications of the 2008 economic collapse have not fully played out. It started with Wall Street and poor investment strategies, spread to the housing market and home foreclosures, and in 2011, according to many, is set to significantly impact state and local governments.

Some states, such as California and Illinois, are already essentially bankrupt. Yet to be determined is the number following right behind.

What does this mean for parks-and-recreation centers? Virtually all will need to find more ways to reduce operating costs. The worst that can happen is for staffers to be let go–adding to the unemployment problem–and for facilities to close. In many parts of the country–as parks-and-rec administrators well know–facilities have become safe, second homes for youngsters.

Closing these locations could have unfortunate and preventable repercussions.

Thus, parks-and-recreation locations must look for new ways to save cash. Further, they should look at these savings as cumulative and interconnected so a small savings at one facility has a ripple effect and offers a larger savings for the entire department.

The Wake-Up Call

Most Americans did not give much thought to the cost of electricity until the early 1970s when the country experienced its first oil crisis. Although its immediate impact on American society meant long lines to fill the tanks, it actually had several longer-lasting ramifications that were less noticeable at the time.

For instance, for many, this was a wake-up call that:

• Energy from petroleum-based products is a finite source;

• Every time someone turns on a light or a television, it uses energy;

• Using energy wisely and more responsibly can reduce costs.

We are only now beginning to realize there is also a direct correlation between energy savings and water efficiency. Saving water by, for example, installing low-flow or no-flow restroom fixtures not only reduces what is spent on water, but saves energy as well. This is where the cost savings to parks-and-recreation administrators can be realized.

The Water/Energy Connection

As a result of what has been learned since the 1970s, most people know that heating water requires electricity and costs money. For instance, running a hot-water faucet in a bathtub for only five minutes is equivalent to lighting a 60-watt light bulb for 14 hours. However, what is often overlooked or misunderstood is how the potable (usable) water got there in the first place.

Water has to be treated and then pumped to and from homes and commercial buildings across the country. Each year, just treating water, delivering it to, and then removing it from homes and commercial locations, requires the same amount of electricity as it takes to power 5 million U.S. homes for an entire year. In fact, in California, it is estimated that 19 percent of the state’s electrical use and 23 percent of its natural-gas use is for moving water to and from facilities.

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