Lade study: conserving water tied to energy savings

December 7, 2017

Gabriel Lade, assistant professor, was one of a team of researchers who determined that programs that encourage consumers to conserve one resource end up reducing the use of other resources–a phenomenon referred to as a behavioral spillover. Using high frequency water- and electricity-use data to investigate the effects of home water reports on patterns of electricity use, researchers found that consumers saved as much as 1.5 to 2 percent of their expected electricity consumption in the summer months.

The study, “Spillovers from Behavioral Interventions: Experimental Evidence from Water and Energy Use,” shows that when consumers are informed of their water consumption rates, not only do they conserve that resource, they become more energy efficient, as well. Lade discovered that households that cut water use by 5% also cut their electricity use by as much as 2%, even though the emphasis was only on water.

"Water and electricity conservation often go hand in hand, like when you use a washing machine less, you’ll also use the dryer less. What we found is that the electricity savings we observed far exceed what you would expect to see if it were just coming from reductions in these appliances. It looks like conservation begets conservation. Households started to turn off lights when they left a room.”

“The results point to the significant savings that can be gained if more utilities considered cost-sharing and collaborating on their conservation programs across resource types such as water and electricity,” said Lade. “When both the water and electricity savings are considered together, the cost to implement these programs becomes much more affordable.”

This study was one of three that won The E2e Project’s 2016 Energy Efficiency Research Design Competition, funded by a grant from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation. It was conducted by researchers at the University of California, Davis and Iowa State University.

Read the full working paper.

Read the policy brief.