A new study claims Arizona could save more than 15 billion gallons of water a year if 20 percent of the state’s energy came from rooftop solar. That’s enough to sustain 90,000 homes, or the population of Chandler, for one year.
The study was conducted by the former director of Arizona’s Department of Water Resources, Herb Guenther. He now serves as a water consultant and conducted this study for The Alliance for Solar Choice.
Rooftop solar accounts for less than one percent of the state’s energy today. Nearly all of Arizona’s energy comes from thermal or hydro power plants. These plants average 685 gallons of water per megawatt-hour (MWh) of energy generated, while solar energy averages just two gallons of water per MWh.
“Saving water is no longer an option. It’s an absolute necessity,” Guenther said. “And most people don’t realize that when you turn on the lights or the air conditioning, you’re also consuming water.”
Environment America’s Solar Program coordinator Bret Fanshaw said attaining 20 percent solar power in Arizona is feasible. Environment America released a report last year predicting that by 2025, 25 percent of Arizona’s energy will come from solar power.
Guenther’s study shows that one household can save nearly 10,000 gallons of water a year by switching from thermal energy to solar power. In the study, Guenther referred to water shortages in Lake Mead and Lake Powell, as well as over-appropriation of the Colorado River.
“You really don’t need to be a water expert to realize we’re facing a water crisis in Arizona,” Guenther said. “The best way we can avoid a water crisis in Arizona is to make the best use of the water that we have.”
During a press conference on his findings, Guenther was joined by six-time Olympic gold medalist Amy Van Dyken.
“I didn’t realize the correlation between the sun, energy and water,” she said. “Obviously, as a swimmer, water is very important to my life, to my livelihood, but it’s important to all of us.”