New Study: Water Conservation Can Save Energy and Reduce Pollution

UC Berkeley Law: Susan Gluss,, 510-642-6936
UCLA Law: Lauri Gavel,, 310-206-2611

Ethan Elkind,, 510-643-3701 

Berkeley, CA, May 19, 2011 – Consumers may not be aware of the connection between water and energy consumption—or the greenhouse gases emitted as a byproduct. A new report, Drops of Energy: Conserving Urban Water in California to Reduce Greenhouse Gas Emissions, offers steps industry and state leaders and consumers can take to reduce water consumption and save energy.  Drops of Energy is a joint project of the University of California, Berkeley, and UCLA Schools of Law. 

The state uses large amounts of energy to pump, treat and deliver water to consumers, who use even more energy to heat and use the water at home. According to the California Energy Commission, the consumption of water in California requires approximately 20 percent of the state’s electricity, 30 percent of its non-power plant natural gas and 88 million gallons of diesel fuel annually. The greenhouse gas emissions associated with water-related energy consumption total more than 100 million metric tons of carbon dioxide-equivalent gases.

“Water use means energy use, therefore conserving water means conserving energy,” said report author Ethan Elkind, Climate Change Research Fellow at UCLA Law and Berkeley Law. “Most of the energy consumption from water comes from consumer use of household appliances like dishwashers and hot water heaters. These appliances are very energy-intensive, so conservation at home offers the greatest energy- and money-saving potential.”

Water conservation is even more critical as the effects of climate change begin to emerge. California has already experienced altered precipitation patterns, a reduction in winter snow and unpredictable water supplies. In addition, rising sea levels from global warming and glacial melting threaten to inundate coastal groundwater supplies and sever critical links in the state’s water infrastructure.

“Consumers will increasingly have to make better use of less water,” said Cara Horowitz, Andrew Sabin Family Foundation Executive Director of UCLA Law’s Emmett Center on Climate Change and the Environment. “Through improved practices, California’s water utilities and users have an opportunity to help slow climate change by reducing water and energy consumption.”

The report identifies key obstacles to conserving water and recommends, among other things:  the expansion of energy-efficiency funding programs, such as a public goods surcharge on water bills and on-bill financing to help water consumers pay for water efficiency improvements; and the implementation of  rate structures that encourage and reward water use efficiency.

The recommendations are the result of a business and climate change workshop convened by the UCLA and UC Berkeley law schools. Participants included water experts, public officials, academics, environmentalists and business leaders. It was the seventh in a series of workshops funded by Bank of America as part of its 10-year environmental initiative on climate change.  The workshops are organized by the Emmett Center on Climate Change and the Environment and the Environmental Law Center at UCLA School of Law, and the Center for Law, Energy and the Environment at the UC Berkeley School of Law.

To read a full copy of “Drops of Energy,” visit the Berkeley Law website or the UCLA Law website.

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