Putting Water Use in Perspective

Cindy Zimmerman

Among the emerging issues highlighted at last week’s Ethanol 2008: Emerging Issues Forum was water usage. Greg Krissek, Director of Government Affairs for ICM, put water use in context.

Greg Krissek“Basically, three to four gallons of water per gallon of ethanol is used in the ethanol plant,” Krissek says. “A little over one gallon actually touches the corn in what we call the contact process.” The rest is called non-contact, which is for processes such cooling of the equipment, that mostly evaporates. And he says plants are becoming even more efficient with some already falling under three gallons of water per gallon of ethanol.

Compared to gasoline, Krissek says the most conservative numbers for gasoline production range from 2-3 gallons of water to produce one gallon of gasoline, while some estimates are as high as 7-8 gallons.

Krissek also talked about the water usage for crop production, noting that only about 12-14 percent of corn acres are irrigated as a supplement to natural rainfall and as more drought tolerant varieties of corn are developed, less water will be needed for irrigation.

You can listen to Chuck’s interview with Greg here: [audio:http://www.zimmcomm.biz/ethanol/greg-krissek.mp3]

According to this link to EPA Water Trivia Facts, it takes 44 gallons of water to refine one gallon of crude oil (actually 1851 gallons to refine one barrel, which is 42 gallons).

Here are a few other bits of trivia regarding “how much water it takes to….”

Process a quarter pound of hamburger – one gallon
Brush your teeth – two gallons
Make one board foot of lumber – 5.4 gallons
Process one can of fruit or vegetables – 9.3 gallons
Make one gallon of paint – 13 gallons
Make one pound of wool or cotton – 101 gallons
Make one barrel of beer – 1500 gallons
Make four new tires – 2,072 gallons
Manufacture one new car, including tires – 39,090 gallons

Ethanol, News