Optimizing Statewide Benefits from Public Investments

Customer investments in water conservation and efficiency, on-site wastewater treatment, and on-site production and use of recycled water are pivotal to building a drought-resilient future. These distributed water resources reduce pressure on centralized municipal water and wastewater treatment systems. Over time, less municipal water and wastewater treatment capacity will be needed, reducing the capital and operating costs of these centralized systems. In many cases, customer-side actions also reduce electric consumption and associated greenhouse gas emissions from water and wastewater utility systems and operations.

Current energy efficiency programs determine eligibility for incentives on the basis of site-specific impacts. This single resource focus ignores substantial public benefits that could have been achieved by reducing demand for valuable potable water supplies, and reducing loading on aged water and wastewater infrastructure. Although many new water treatment technologies are also energy efficient, thereby producing high quality recycled water at a fraction of the energy needed for conventional wastewater treatment, present energy incentives become inaccessible because energy use increases at the customer’s site, even though total energy consumption to produce this high quality water is actually reduced.

Accelerating drought resilience will require new business models that enable optimizing State investments on a holistic, comprehensive basis – cutting across water, energy, and climate boundaries.

Distributed Water Resources

The energy industry refers to customer-side energy resources – energy efficiency, electric demand response, customer production of clean and/or renewable distributed electric generation, and battery energy storage – as distributed energy resources.

Customer-side water projects – water conservation and efficiency, changes in quantity and timing of water demand, customer production of water resources (surface water, groundwater, on-site production and reuse of recycled water), and water storage – are similarly distributed.

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“... single focus [public investments] causes underinvestment in programs that would increase the energy efficiency of the water use cycle, agricultural and urban water use efficiency, and generation from renewable resources by water and wastewater utilities.”

2005 Integrated Energy Policy Report. Energy Commission. Publication Number: CEC-100-2005-007CMF.

Benefits to Investing in Distributed Resources

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