Most people are aware that fresh water is the most essential natural resource, worthy of conserving so that we may have enough for our needs. But did you know that saving water also saves energy, in turn, reducing greenhouse gas emissions and air pollution? If you live in California, you are part of a state where 20% of the total amount of energy produced goes to the pumping, treatment, disposal, heating and pressurizing of water. This accounts for 100 million metric tons of CO2 equivalent gases, which is what you may commonly know as greenhouse gasses, the driving factor of human induced climate change. In addition, currently 30% of the state’s non-power plant natural gas and 88 million gallons of Diesel Fuel (annually) goes to the treatment, transport, or end-use of water.
In an average year, California gets around 200 million acre-feet (about 65.2 trillion gallons) of water from precipitation. Most of this water is absorbed by the environment or is evaporated into the atmosphere. Californians harnesses 40-50% of the water for urban, agricultural, and industrial uses. While it is true that most of our water goes to agriculture here in California, most of the energy involved with water is from urban uses. This is due to the rigorous treatment process for potable water, as well as the energy intensive end-uses like dishwashers, water heaters, etc. With that being said, urban water efficiency and conservation presents one of the best opportunities to drastically reduce California’s energy use, greenhouse gas emissions, and air pollution.
What is California’s government is doing about it and what else can be done?
In 2008, the state government drafted the 20x2020 Water Conservation Plan, which calls for a 20% reduction of urban water use per capita by the year 2020. This will reduce GHG emissions by 1.4 million metric tons annually. The 20x2020 Plan goes hand-in-hand with AB-32 from the California Global Warming solutions Act, which calls for GHG emissions to be cut back to 1990 levels by 2020. Moreover, AB-1420 requires state grant and loan funding for water suppliers to adopt best water management practices.
Even though California has enacted progressive initiatives for water efficiency, there are several factors which need to be addressed. Financial incentives need to become more comprehensive, where water rate structures promote and reward conservation and investment into water efficiency technology. Sufficient Water use data should become highly publicized and well monitored. Lastly, efficiency funding programs should be implemented by the energy sector.
What can we as consumers do?
Aside from simply reducing your water consumption though efficient water use practices, purchasing water efficient facilities for your home or work can make a difference in conserving water thereby reducing your carbon footprint. Here are a few things to keep in mind:
-Outfit faucets and showerheads with high efficiency aerators
-Purchase water efficient dishwashers and clothes washers
-Replace old toilets with low flush toilets
-Replace old water heaters with high efficiency and/or low emissions water heaters
-Instead of traditional landscaping with lawns, try Xeriscaping (planting drought resistant plants)
UCSF’s LivingGreen Team and the Alliance to Save Energy are dedicated to conserving water as well as energy.
If you are a UCSF employee or student and want to learn more about what we can do to help you save water and energy at UCSF, email us at email@example.com
To learn more about what the Alliance to Save Energy is doing to save energy through water conservation go to: http://www.ase.org/programs/watergy.
For a detailed look at California’s urban water and energy nexus, read http://www.law.berkeley.edu/files/Drops_of_Energy_May_2011_v1.pdf
By: Dan Bertoldi