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California’s search for water could increase carbon emissions

A kayaker fish in Lake Oroville as water levels remain low due to ongoing drought in Oroville, California.

A kayaker fish in Lake Oroville as water levels remain low due to ongoing drought in Oroville, California.
Photo: Ethan Swoop (AP)

As if terrible water situation in the west wasn’t bad enough, it could have been worse. Water use in California can lead to increased carbon emissions if measures are not taken to improve water efficiency.

New reportreleased Thursday by the nonprofit think tank Next 10 and researchers from the Pacific Institute, estimates that if California water demand and use remain the same, population growth means urban water demand could grow 24% by 2035. This, in turn, may increase. consumption of electricity related to water increased by 21% over the same time period, while consumption of natural gas increased by 25%.

Maintaining the flow and availability of water in a state as large as California requires a lot of energy. The California State Water Project, the state storage and delivery system, is largest consumer of electricity in the state. Previous studies have estimated that all systems designed to deliver and treat water to the state’s population consume a whopping 20% ​​of California’s electricity annually. The system requires 88 billion gallons of diesel fuel each year, most of which goes to pumping groundwater. Water heaters also burn a third of the state’s natural gas, which is not supplied to power plants.

“In California, we have a great aqueduct system for moving water, and you need a lot of pumps to move the water,” said Noel Perry, founder of Next 10. “It’s very mechanical. To move it, you will need electricity to power these machines and pumps to move the water. In addition, every home has a water heating method, and in most cases it is heated by natural gas. Then, with things like sewage treatment plants, you need to move the water into the plant, process the water, and take it out. All this requires electricity to carry out these processes. “

Not all water uses are the same. While Agriculture requires a lot of real water resources in California, urban water use is much more energy intensive… It makes sense: PPeople who use water in their homes need to be treated, heated, treated and disposed of. Farmers and ranchers have been forced to pump out more in recent years as lowering the level of groundwater– It consumes electricity, but water use in cities is still twice as energy intensive as use in agriculture, the report says.

Several solutions are being developed and promoted to create new water sources for urban populations, such as desalination and waste water treatment. The report says that in terms of energy use, these options are better than transporting water over long distances.but they are still more energy intensive than producing from a well-managed reservoir that can be better supported with efficiency measures.

For example, small improvements in how much water is flushed down the toilet at home in California can feel like a shallow potato. But NSWastewater treatment alone currently consumes about 1% of US electricity. It may seem that reducing the amount of treated water small in the general pattern of the climate crisis, but every ton of carbon not emitted matters

And fthankfully, there is a lot of room for improvement with the California water system.… The report says that the implementation of large-scale efforts to maintain and improve the effectiveness, can reduce the consumption of electricity associated with water by 19% by 2035, as well as a decrease use of natural gas by 16%… This will cut greenhouse gas emissions by 41%, bringing the state closer to meeting its climate goals.… Several of Key recommendations include electrifying water heaters to eliminate natural gas altogether and creating more energy efficient groundwater pumps. There are even great suggestions for capturing gas from decomposing waste and then using that gas for wastewater treatment.

But there is also the simple math of water conservation: Using less water generally means using less electricity to move and deliver it. Perry noted some sound practices and reforms that can reduce the carbon footprint of water in people’s homes, such as planting local, less water-intensive plants in their yards and using more energy-efficient appliances that use less water to do the same job. These same reforms are often touted as necessary to ensure that there is more water for everyone in the future. Climate change is exacerbation megadrought defeat of the West and the report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released last month found that climate change is making severe droughts much more frequent. When it comes to making water make sense in the West, it’s clear that energy and conservation can go hand in hand.


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