This is an excerpt from EERE Network News, a weekly electronic newsletter.

August 28, 2002

Drought Drains Power

As of the end of July, moderate to extreme drought affected 49 percent of the 48 contiguous states, according to the National Climatic Data Center, a division of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Significant below-average rain fell in 27 states in July, and drier than average conditions have persisted in some parts of the country for several years. The average temperature in July for the contiguous United States was 76.4 degrees, 2.2 degrees above average for the period 1895-2001. That made it the fifth warmest July since national records began in 1895.

The effects of the drought are far-reaching, causing more than 75 percent of range and pasturelands in five Western states to be classified by the Department of Agriculture as poor or very poor. The lack of water has also had dramatic impacts on energy, most obviously in the area of hydropower, but fossil-fueled and nuclear power plants also use huge volumes of water to cool steam pipes, boilers and other power generation equipment.

Low water levels in the Piedmont section of North Carolina and South Carolina, for example, have caused Duke Power to reduce its reliance on hydroelectric generation by as much as 70 percent and close access to the lakes it manages. Since hydropower is Duke's least expensive source of fuel, consumers may soon be paying more. Duke Power is one of the nation's largest electric utilities and provides electricity to approximately two million customers in North Carolina and South Carolina. See the Duke Power press release.

For detailed temperature and precipitation trends for the United States, see the National Climatic Data Center, the "world's largest archive of weather data."

Elsewhere in the east, Delaware has instituted mandatory residential and commercial water usage restrictions, and drought- stricken University of Delaware took measures to conserve water and energy. Installing Maytag Commercial Neptune high-efficiency washers in the campus laundry facilities will save 8,000 gallons of water a day on the campus, adding up to a savings of 3.5 million gallons of water a year.

For more information on the Neptune see Maytag's Web site.

The Neptune is an Energy Star rated appliance. Energy star qualified washers use 35-50 percent less water and 50 percent less energy per load. Using less water also means less energy is needed to heat the water. For more information see the Energy Star Web site.

For tips on water and energy use during a drought, see the Alliance to Save Energy Web site.