Hurricanes Maria, Irma, Harvey: How to Keep out the Flood Water by Pumping Less


First, I should say that my heart goes to all people who are affected by Hurricane Maria, Hurricane Irma, and Hurricane Harvey in Texas, Louisiana, Florida, Puerto Rico, and all islands in the Caribbean. At times like this, we shall all come together to help the people in need.


Whether or not we like it or believe in it, climate change is causing global warming. That in term is causing an increase in severe weather and natural disasters. We are all witnessing the worst in a century hurricanes, tropical storms, flooding, and droughts all over the world. This is not a coincident. Scientists have been yelling and warning us about this for years now. It’s time to listen and act before it is too late. According to NASA, storms feed off of latent heat, which is why scientists think global warming is strengthening storms. Extra heat in the atmosphere or ocean nourishes storms. While we cannot pin point the extend of effect by climate change on recent strong hurricanes, it is certainly one of the key factors knowing that, according to UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, “Scientific evidence for warming of the climate system is unequivocal.”


When hurricane Harvey hit Houston, the fourth most populous city in the US, large areas of the city got flooded. Same thing happened in many cities in Florida and Caribbean Islands when hurricane Irma and Maria devastated cities there. I saw on TV that people were using pumps is some areas to drain the water from their property and streets. Apparently, it is a common practice in Miami even after a heavy rain.

We all believe that “prevention is better than cure.” The same thing is true with global warming and climate change and preventing the consequences of them including hurricanes and flooding. In general, by improving energy efficiency, we can reduce burning fossil fuels and thereby reduce greenhouse gasses (GHG) emissions which cause global warming and climate change. In this article, as an example, I focus on pumps and pumping systems and how their impact on climate change can be reduced.

In a series of reports we recently published on Energy Efficiency and GHG Emissions Reduction Potential in Industrial Motor Systems in the U.S. covering 30 U.S. States (Available from this Link), we estimated the energy use by industrial pump systems in 30 different states in the U.S., separately. Our analysis shows that industrial pump systems in Florida, Texas, and Louisiana, which were flooded by recent hurricanes, together consumed over 37,000 GWh of electricity in 2015. That is about the electricity use by 3.5 million U.S. households. Industrial pump systems in the entire U.S. consumed over 147,000 GWh in 2015, which accounts for about 20% of total electricity use in the U.S. manufacturing in that year. In other words, the electricity use by industrial pump systems in the U.S. is equal to electricity use by 13.5 million U.S. households. In terms of GHG emissions, industrial pump systems alone are responsible for over 163 Billion lb of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions per year in the U.S.

In the same reports, we quantified energy saving and GHG emissions reduction potentials and cost-effectiveness of energy efficiency measures for industrial pump systems in each state studied including Florida, Texas, and Louisiana. Our analyses shows that up to 35% of the electricity use in the industrial pump systems can be saved by implementing commercially available energy efficiency and system optimization measures and technologies. Most importantly, over half of this energy saving potential is cost-effective. This means that to save a kWh of electricity will cost less than the average unit prices of electricity for industry in each of the 30 states studied. In other words, investing in energy efficiency in pump systems will result in millions of dollars in savings for companies, utilities, and tax payers. This will also result in creation of thousands of jobs for local communities in each state. In addition, the electricity savings will subsequently result in reduction in GHG emissions and other air pollutions from power plants. The combined GHG reduction potential from energy efficiency in industrial pump systems in Florida, Texas, and Louisiana is over 11 Billion lb of CO2 emissions per year.

These efficiency improvements will have absolutely no negative impact on production or services served by the pump systems. These are just commercially available system optimization measures which will result in both energy and cost savings as well as GHG emissions reduction.

Above, I just gave you an example of industrial pump systems. If you add other motor systems such as fan systems, compressor systems, etc. and also motor systems in other sectors (buildings, power sector, agriculture sector, etc.), the absolute energy saving, cost savings, and GHG emissions reductions will be up to 5 times higher than what was mentioned above for the industrial pump systems.

In addition to the industrial pump systems reports mentioned above, we have also published separate reports to quantify energy use, energy saving, and GHG emissions reduction potentials and cost-effectiveness of efficiency technologies and measures in industrial fan systems and industrial compressed air systems in 30 different states in the U.S. 

See Reports: U.S. Industrial Motor Systems Energy Efficiency Reports Covering 30 States >>

Don't forget to Follow us on LinkedIn and Facebook to get the latest about our new blog posts, projects, and publications.