The estimated impact of California's urban water conservation mandate on electricity consumption and greenhouse gas emissions
In April 2015, the Governor of California mandated a 25% statewide reduction in water consumption (relative to 2013 levels) by urban water suppliers. The more than 400 public water agencies affected by the regulation were also required to report monthly progress towards the conservation goal to the State Water Resources Control Board. This paper uses the reported data to assess how the water utilities have responded to this mandate and to estimate the electricity savings and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions reductions associated with reduced operation of urban water infrastructure systems. The results show that California succeeded in saving 524 000 million gallons (MG) of water (a 24.5% decrease relative to the 2013 baseline) over the mandate period, which translates into 1830 GWh total electricity savings, and a GHG emissions reduction of 521 000 metric tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalents (MT CO2e). For comparison, the total electricity savings linked to water conservation are approximately 11% greater than the savings achieved by the investor-owned electricity utilities’ efficiency programs for roughly the same time period, and the GHG savings represent the equivalent of taking about 111 000 cars off the road for a year. These indirect, large-scale electricity and GHG savings were achieved at costs that were competitive with existing programs that target electricity and GHG savings directly and independently. Finally, given the breadth of the results produced, we built a companion website, called ‘H2Open’ (https://cwee.shinyapps.io/greengov/), to this research effort that allows users to view and explore the data and results across scales, from individual water utilities to the statewide summary.
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