The Luskin Center and Sonoma County Water Agency’s Carbon-free Water Initiative

The Luskin Center and Sonoma County Water Agency’s Carbon-free Water Initiative

Posted on

Fri, 10/09/2015 - 2:05pm

Supplying water to Californians using traditional conveyance methods requires nearly 20 percent of the state's energy. Extracting this embedded energy from gas and coal emits large amounts of greenhouse gases, in particular, carbon dioxide. The Sonoma County Water Agency (SCWA) is one of the first water agencies in the world to supply its customers with carbon-free water and has consequently become a world leader in sustainability. The carbon-free initiative was partly inspired by Luskin Center Director J.R. DeShazo, who suggested this audacious goal to SCWA leadership 15 years ago.

Today, SCWA uses net carbon-free electricity for all of its operations including water delivery, water treatment and administration facilities supplying its 600,000 Sonoma and Marin County residents. Its energy comes from a mixture of solar, wind, wave, geothermal, anaerobic digestion and pyrolysis energy systems.  To accelerate its transition to carbon-free water, SCWA encouraged residential and commercial water conservation across its service area. 

In August, 2015, Dr. DeShazo and others at the Luskin Center returned to SCWA to facilitate a roundtable discussion with experts on water and energy to identify the next big step in sustainability for SCWA. Researchers from Stanford, UC Berkeley, UC Santa Barbara, University of Nebraska, and Arizona State University joined Dr. DeShazo, SCWA staff, US Department of Energy, Climate and Environmental Sciences and Conservation and Natural Resources Group (CNRG) representatives. The group discussed a range of topics to enhance SCWA’s work: enhancing ecosystem health, improving communication with the public and other agencies, better data collection, addressing water cost and supply issues, and collaborative opportunities.  Each non-agency participant is now in the process of submitting a memo articulating actionable items for SCWA to pursue in order to move its environmental stewardship practices forward. The Luskin Center continues to engage with SCWA to ensure that the agency remains a leader in sustainability and to encourage other water agencies to adopt similar measures.

 

Supplying water to Californians using traditional conveyance methods requires nearly 20 percent of the state's energy. Extracting this embedded energy from gas and coal emits large amounts of greenhouse gases, in particular, carbon dioxide. The Sonoma County Water Agency (SCWA) is one of the first water agencies in the world to supply its customers with carbon-free water and has consequently become a world leader in sustainability.