OAKLAND, Calif. (August 29, 2016)—The Legislature today passed and sent to the governor a bill (SB 1425, Pavley) that would create a voluntary registry to track the heat-trapping pollution of California water users—primarily water suppliers and wastewater treatment facilities. The bill, which is sponsored by the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS), is needed because the water sector consumes nearly 20 percent of California’s electricity, a number that is likely to grow as the extended drought further stresses water supplies and the electricity grid, according to UCS.
“We need to help ensure that water will be part of the solution to California’s clean energy transition,” said Juliet Christian-Smith, a UCS climate scientist. “If signed by Governor Brown, this bill would help provide the state’s water sector with reliable data to identify conservation and clean energy opportunities, especially as the state continues to grapple with the new norm of extended droughts and a changing climate.”
In California, energy is used to pump, treat, transport, deliver and heat water. The state 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 would help solve this problem by giving decision makers information needed to effectively manage these two scarce resources, which are inextricably linked and tied to climate change, according to UCS.
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 notes, however, that a lack of data about electricity consumption is a key barrier to unlocking the sector’s potential to help the state achieve its climate pollution reduction goals.