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Water Efficiency

A photo of water spilling out of a downspout from the roof of a multi-story office building.

NREL conserves water in a number of innovative ways.

A photo of water passing through a landscaped area.

Rain water from NREL's Research Support Facility passes through landscaped areas before discharging into Lena Gulch.

To remain resilient in the arid climate of the southwest, NREL is committed to the efficient use of water throughout the laboratory.

Best Practices

All new buildings on NREL's campus conserve water indoors and outdoors, incorporating federal water efficiency best practices like:

  • Water-efficient landscaping
  • Weather-TRAK irrigation monitoring system
  • Water-efficient faucets and showerheads
  • Pervious pavements to decrease storm water peak flow rates and enhance water quality through infiltration
  • Storm water detention and water quality ponds to reduce erosion and sediment release downstream by capturing and storing rainwater from all storm events.

Water Intensity

NREL's goal is to reduce water use intensity 36% by FY 2025 from a FY 2007 baseline. In FY 2015, water intensity was 16 gallons/ft2, 42% lower than baseline.

The Energy Systems Integration Facility (ESIF) houses a petaflop scale high performance supercomputer that relies on a water-based cooling system. This accounts for 12% of total NREL water consumption. Johnson Controls, Inc., donated a thermosyphon cooler for NREL to install in the High Performance Computer Data Center (HPCDC) at the ESIF. This device will reject most of the HPCDC heat without evaporating water in cool weather. At 50°F outdoor air temperature it can reject 1,000 kW of heat. Because Denver's mean temperature is 48°F, the thermosyphon can conceivably all but eliminate HPCDC cooling tower water use for half the year. NREL is committed to using water as efficiently as possible and implements all available measures to reduce campus water consumption.

NREL's Site Sustainability Plan FY 2016 provides more information about water usage at NREL.