Saving on Water Doesn’t Just Save Water, CA Finds

by | Jan 12, 2018

(Photo: California Water Aqueduct. Credit: Notthisorthat, Flickr Creative Commons)

While California failed to reach its goal of a 25% reduction in water use in 2015, the measures taken to reduce usage led to other environmental benefits, according to a new report from the University of California, Davis.

The state implemented measures to address the negative results of a four-year drought with a goal of reducing water use by 25% in 2015, ultimately saving 524,000 million gallons, which at 24% fell just short of the goal. But the decrease in water usage actually resulted in a significant decrease in energy use, leading to an electricity savings of 1,830 GWh, according to the report published in Environmental Research Letters (via The savings, in fact, were greater than those achieved by investor-owned electricity utilities’ efficiency programs over the same period, says the report’s lead author, Dr. Edward Sprang.

Water and electricity use are closely tied, and in California, water transportation, treatment, distribution and end-use consumption account for 19% of total electricity demand, per the report.

Additionally, water-saving measures in California also led to reductions in greenhouse gas emissions to the tune of 524,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e).

Last spring, CA Governor Edm G. Brown, Jr., implemented a Water Action Plan, with strict guidelines for continuing to manage water use in the state. Central to the plan is a requirement that the state’s 410 urban water suppliers meet new water use targets. Suppliers would calculate their unique water efficiency targets based on a common methodology that takes into account the diverse climatic, demographic and land-use characteristics of each agency’s service area. Urban water suppliers would set new targets by 2021 with a full compliance deadline of 2025.

Businesses and homeowners will face restrictions such as bans on wasteful practices such as hosing sidewalks and watering lawns after rain. Other elements of the plan include:

  • Technical assistance, financial incentives and standards to guide water suppliers’ efforts to detect and repair leaks.
  • Requiring urban water suppliers to prepare water shortage contingency plans, including a drought risk assessment every five years.
  • Requiring more agricultural water suppliers to submit plans that quantify measures to increase water use efficiency and develop adequate drought plans.
  • Monthly reporting by urban water suppliers on water usage, conservation achieved and enforcement efforts
  • Improved drought planning for small water suppliers and rural communities.

The agricultural community will also face stricter regulations.

“California’s farmers and ranchers practice conservation every day,” said California Department of Food and Agriculture Secretary Karen Ross. “They are prepared to continue in that spirit in adherence to groundwater regulations and the adoption of more efficient irrigation systems.”

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