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September 10, 2013 > The Water Wheel

The Water Wheel

By ACWD Water Conservation Supervisor Stephanie Nevins

Recently, my husband and I found ourselves scrambling to come up with ideas for a science fair project. Nothing too complex, as this was for our Kindergartener. At first we tried to encourage her to figure out for herself what concept she wanted to explore. When that didn't work, the lobbying began. Water is my profession, so I attempted to steer her in that direction. My husband worked on the energy angle. Needless to say, my poor child became overwhelmed.

Then, one day, while we were out in the back yard, the kids were playing with water - kids love to play with water. They placed a few full buckets on the edge of the deck; all three tipped over like dominoes sending a gush of water down the side of the patio toward a discarded pinwheel. The pinwheel started spinning, and voila! We had our project - a homemade water wheel.

Of course, building a model that could be demonstrated at school was something else entirely. It took many failed attempts (which, unfortunately, failed to amuse our Kindergartener) before we met with success. In the end, it was a nice combination of two interests: water and energy.

The water wheel, a simple yet profoundly important device, embodies the intrinsic link between water and energy. The movement of one generates the other and the generation of the other yields modern comforts like that hot shower you took this morning.

We can't ignore this connection, we must embrace it. It takes a lot of energy to move and purify the water we use every day. We can reduce some of that energy use by reducing the amount of water we use.

Saving water means saving energy. Remember that hot shower? If you shorten that shower by a minute or two, you double your savings - using less water means using less energy (gas or electricity) to heat that water. But it doesn't stop there. By reducing your water use you help reduce the amount of energy that would have been needed to treat, pump, and distribute that water. And in the process you'll reduce your carbon footprint!

For quite a while now, ACWD has recognized the water and energy connection. For example, we generate hydropower from the water we receive from the South Bay Aqueduct and use it to run one of our treatment plants. In addition, we've been partnering with Pacific Gas & Electric Company on several water conservation programs that have an energy/water savings link. These include high-efficiency clothes washer rebates, a home energy and water audit program, and incentives for businesses to upgrade to water and energy efficient equipment.

We also offer other programs that will get you that combined savings, such as our water conservation device distribution program (showerheads and faucet aerators) and our water-efficient landscape rebate program (less water coming out of automatic sprinkler systems saves energy too!). Our new Water Savings Assistance Program is a water survey and fixture/device retrofit program geared toward our low income customers. Stay tuned, as you are likely to see many more programs like these in the future.

Governor Brown also publicly recognized the water/energy connection and took it statewide in a campaign this past summer. At you can find out even more about this connection and what you can do to save.

From spilled buckets of water and a discarded pinwheel to a water wheel that makes bubbles (as our Kindergartener's project did), the water/energy connection is a concept we should all take time to reflect upon. For more ideas on how to save both water and energy, please visit ACWD's website at or call one of our water conservation staff at 510-668-6534 or 510-668-4207. We'd love to hear from you.

Oh, and don't worry, no water was wasted in the making of the science fair project. All water, including that which spilled from the buckets, was in the end used for water landscaping. And if you're wondering whether or not we won the science fair, I am happy to report that we did! In Kindergarten, every student submitting a project is a winner!

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