Governor Brown Signs UCS-Backed Bill to Help California Water Users Fight Climate Change

Bill Creates Voluntary Registry to Track Energy Use and Heat-Trapping Pollution

Published Sep 26, 2016

OAKLAND, Calif. (September 26, 2016)—California Gov. Jerry Brown signed Senate Bill 1425 (Pavley) into law over the weekend. The measure, sponsored by the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS), creates a voluntary registry to track energy consumption and climate pollution from water use. The registry will help the state monitor and develop solutions to control one of the largest, fastest-growing pieces of its climate puzzle, according to UCS. The California water sector, primarily water utilities and wastewater treatment facilities, uses nearly 20 percent of the state’s electricity supply, a number that is expected to grow as the ongoing drought further stresses water supplies and the electricity grid.

“When it comes to climate change, California’s water sector is like a slow-dripping faucet,” said Juliet Christian-Smith, a UCS climate scientist. “It may not seem like much, but the energy used to pump, treat, transport, deliver and heat water really adds up. This new law will help provide reliable data to identify conservation and clean energy opportunities that are needed to ensure that water is part of California’s climate solution.”

California already is seeing huge increases in energy-intensive groundwater pumping to make up for low precipitation during the drought. A recent study estimates that during this year alone groundwater pumping for irrigation will consume an additional 1.6 billion kilowatt-hours. Generating that amount of electricity emits air pollution equivalent to the annual tailpipe emissions of 238,000 cars or a third of the pollution from a coal-fired power plant. SB 1425 will help solve this problem by giving decisionmakers information needed to effectively manage these two scarce resources, which are inextricably linked and tied to climate change.

“There is an enormous amount of energy embedded in our water supply,” said Sen. Fran Pavley, who wrote the law. “This voluntary registry will for the first time provide for a clear accounting of the total greenhouse gas emissions associated with the water system, and provide water suppliers, distributors and end users the information they need to do their part in voluntarily advancing our climate goals.”

Investing in clean, renewable energy benefits water utilities, their customers and the state’s efforts to reduce global warming pollution, according to the 2015 UCS report, “Clean Energy Opportunities in California’s Water Sector,” by Christian-Smith and Laura Wisland, UCS senior energy analyst. The report identified the lack of data about electricity consumption as a key barrier to unlocking the sector’s potential to help the state achieve its climate pollution reduction goals.