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Home > By DEPARTMENTS > Green Operations > Standard Operating Procedures for Green and Sustainable Business Operations > Water Efficiency

Report: The Role of Recycled Water in Energy Efficiency and Greenhouse Gas Reduction

More than half of Southern California's water shortfall could be met by existing supplies of recycled water that are currently being released to streams and the ocean.

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May 8, 2008 - The California Sustainability Alliance, a market transformation program managed by Navigant Consulting, Inc. (NYSE: NCI), has released its study The Role of Recycled Water in Energy Efficiency and Greenhouse Gas Reduction.

The study estimates the potential energy and carbon benefits of accelerating and increasing the development and use of recycled water in the state of California.

Currently, Southern California is seeking more than one million acre-feet of additional water per year to replace imported and other water supplies that are no longer available. The study found that more than half of the water shortfall could be met by existing supplies of recycled water that are currently being released to streams and the ocean.

"This substantial amount of recyclable water would help alleviate serious supply shortages," said Professor Robert Wilkinson of the University of California, Santa Barbara, one of the study's authors, and an advisor to California's Climate Action Team. "Using recycled water creates major energy savings and reduces associated green house gas emissions. At a time when California is taking the lead in carbon reduction and reducing our reliance on fossil fuels, these types of energy-saving opportunities need priority attention and implementation."

According to the study, the long-term incremental water supply required to meet California’s needs is expected to come from seawater desalination projects. These projects, while providing drought-resistant, reliable supplies, are highly energy intensive. The study concludes that using secondary and tertiary recycled water supplies could save enough energy to power 150,000 homes.

"The energy savings from currently available recyclable water exceeds fifteen percent of California's total annual energy efficiency goal”, explained Laurie Park, Associate Director with Navigant Consulting and principal author of the study. "Equally important, this energy savings would reduce annual carbon emissions in California by half a million metric tons annually."

Lorraine White, Alliance advisor and California Energy Commission representative on the Climate Action Team's Water-Energy Sub-Committee emphasized, "To achieve these valuable energy and carbon benefits, California needs clear policies and economic incentives enabling the use of all sources of recyclable water as soon as possible."

According to the study, every gallon of recycled water that is not used to offset potable water use is a missed opportunity for California to increase water and energy supplies and to reduce carbon emissions. Combined incentives that recognize both the water and energy benefits of recycled water will need to be put in place in California in order to offset the high costs of separate recycled water pipes and plumbing systems.

The study contains additional findings on the cost of recycled water, measures that can be taken to accelerate its use, and the benefits of accelerated implementation.

For additional information, please contact the Alliance's Program Manager, Laurie Park, at

DOWNLOAD PDF: Final Report - The Role of Recycled Water in Energy Efficiency and Greenhouse Gas Reduction

Appendix A - Significant Recycled Water Policies, Rules and Regulations

Appendix B - Water Agency Profile: Inland Empire Utilities Agency

Appendix C - Water Agency Profile: City of Ontario

Appendix D - Water Agency Profile: City of San Diego

Appendix E - Water Agency Profile: Los Angeles Department of Water and Power

Edited by Carolyn Allen, owner/editor of California Green Solutions
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