Calif. Water and Energy Leaders Discuss Strategies to Avoid Water/Energy Crisis

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Water and energy utilities throughout California convened yesterday at one the first Water and Energy Sustainability Summits sponsored by the Water Research Foundation to develop solutions to avoid a statewide water-energy crisis that would mean shortages and increased costs for consumers.

Leaders across the nation are examining the water-energy nexus.

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Water and energy utilities throughout California convened yesterday at one the first Water and Energy Sustainability Summits sponsored by the Water Research Foundation to develop solutions to avoid a statewide water-energy crisis that would mean shortages and increased costs for consumers.

“Leaders across the nation are examining the water-energy nexus,” said Robert C. Renner, executive director of the Water Research Foundation. “It’s a critical issue. Energy is required to move the water we use in our homes and businesses. The more water we use, the more energy is required. It's a symbiotic relationship. But finite supplies of both water and energy, greenhouse gas emissions, and economic consequences drive the need to determine how to balance the water-energy relationship to avoid a future crisis.”

California’s water-energy relationship is among the state’s most important energy supply and infrastructure challenges. Water-related energy use consumes 18 percent of the state’s electricity, 30 percent of its natural gas, and 88 billion gallons of diesel fuel each year, according to the California Energy Commission. Groundwater pumping accounts for more electricity use during summer months than pumping for the states three largest water conveyance systems, according to the California Public Utilities Commission.

And as demand in both sectors will increase costs, customers' will feel the impact in their pocketbooks. The greatest amount of energy for water is due to consumer consumption of water. Further, the California state legislature has mandated that Californians reduce individual water consumption by 20 percent by 2010. Energy suppliers also have requirements to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Leaders at the summit agree it’s critical to investigate where the greatest conservation can be obtained in both water and energy by linking how water and energy are being used by the consumer.

Beyond economic consequences to the consumer, there is a risk that in California, there simply won’t be sufficient resources in 40 years unless critical planning is done today. The state is not alone. Similar issues are looming in Arizona, New York and other states. Communities that must pump their water supplies from distant sources typically use more energy to deliver water.

Another key outcome at the Summit was agreement among water and energy providers to structure a coalition that will collaborate to find solutions and continue joint fact finding. The Water Research Foundation will facilitate the formation of such a group.

“As the largest foundation sponsoring drinking water research in the U.S., the Water Research Foundation has funded more than 30 research projects on how water providers can optimize energy use in water supply. Now we want to take that a step further and continue broker a dialogue between those who provide, regulate and manage water and energy to foster joint solutions,” said Renner.

About the Water Research Foundation
Founded in 1966, the Water Research Foundation is an international, 501c(3) nonprofit organization that sponsors research to enable water utilities, public health agencies and other professionals to provide safe and affordable drinking water to the public. With more than 950 subscriber members who provide water for 80 percent of the U.S. population, the Water Research Foundation has funded and managed more than 1,000 projects. For more information, go to http://www.waterrf.org.

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