Water and energy are interconnected. A frequent term to describe
this relationship is the “water-energy nexus.”
Energy for Water: Energy is needed to store water, get it where
it is needed and also treat it to be used:
* Extracting water from rivers and streams or pumping it
from aquifers, and then conveying it over hills and into storage
facilities is a highly energy intensive process. The State Water
Project (SWP) pumps water 700 miles, including up nearly 2,000
feet over the Tehachapi Mountains. The SWP is the largest single
user of energy in California. It consumes an average of 5 billion
kWh per year. That’s about 2 to 3 percent of all electricity
consumed in California
* Water treatment facilities use energy to pump and process
water for use in homes, businesses and industry
* Consumers use energy to treat water with softeners or
filters, to circulate and pressurize water and to heat and cool
* Wastewater plants use energy to pump wastewater to
treatment plants, and also to aerate and filter it at the plant.
Different end uses require more electricity for delivery than
others. Water for residential, commercial and industrial end-use
needs the most energy (11 percent), followed by agricultural
end-use (3 percent), residential, commercial and industrial
supply and treatment (3 percent), agricultural water supply and
treatment (1 percent) and wastewater treatment (1 percent),
according to the California Energy Commission.
Water for Energy: Water is used to generate electricity
* Water is needed either to process raw materials used in a
facility or maintaining a plant,or to just generate electricity
Overall, the electricity industry is second only to agriculture
as the largest user of water in the United States. Electricity
production from fossil fuels and nuclear energy requires 190,000
million gallons of water per day, accounting for 39 percent of
all freshwater withdrawals in the nation. Coal, the most abundant
fossil fuel, currently accounts for 52 percent of U.S.
electricity generation, and each kWh generated from coal requires
withdrawal of 25 gallons of water.
Old environmental arguments over the consequences of nuclear
power had seemed almost resolved in California. Antinuclear
sentiment was intensified by the 33-year succession of
accidents, from Three Mile Island in 1978 to Chernobyl in 1986
to Fukushima in 2011, severely diminished their appeal.
California was getting ready to wave goodbye to its last
nuclear plant. Up Close We explore the issues, personalities,
and trends that people are talking about around the West. The
political realities of 2022 and the need to reduce carbon
emissions might change things.
A few months ago, [Paul] Ashcraft and several of his neighbors
at the highest point in Unaweep Canyon saw a plan proposed by
Xcel Energy to build a hydro power plant that will help the
company reach its renewable energy goals. The plan put a
75-foot dam holding back the edge of an 88-acre reservoir in
Ashcraft’s front yard. The proposal also puts his neighbors’
homes and Colorado 141 underwater. The plan would move
water between a reservoir on BLM land on top of the cliffs and
a reservoir on private land on the valley floor.
Etched in dirt, a narrow furrow is the only clue that the
grasslands of Lime Ridge Open Space will soon be restored to
their original splendor, cleared of dangerous power lines that
could ignite nearby subdivisions. The undergrounding project,
costing $3.75 million a mile, represents the beginning of a
10,000-mile-long effort by Pacific Gas and Electric to bury the
state’s distribution lines to cope with the growing risk of
winds and wildfires linked to global warming. The utility
long resisted calls to bury its power lines as being too
Environmentalists advocating new state restrictions on oil and
gas drilling have seized upon confirmation last week that two
idle wells were leaking methane near a residential area in
northeast Bakersfield decades after they were improperly
abandoned. Details remained sketchy Monday, including how much
gas the wells were emitting and for how long. … Late
last month, California officials outlined plans for doing more
to cap the state’s orphan oil and gas wells using $25 million
in federal money they said will help them prioritize work in
populated areas most vulnerable to methane leaks and
When California suffers a heat wave, it leans heavily on
hydropower from the Pacific Northwest to keep the lights on.
But that hydropower may not always be available when it’s most
needed, as climate change is shifting the ground on which the
West’s dams sit. Higher temperatures means snowmelt occurs
earlier in the year and leaves less water available for power
generation during the depths of summer.
California needs more water and renewable energy, and Solar
AquaGrid CEO Jordan Harris is trying to help. … A big
idea is starting with a small stretch of canals in
the Turlock Irrigation District, located just south of
Modesto. This fall, groundbreaking will begin on a pilot
project to build solar panel canopies over existing canals.
… A study from UC Merced concluded that shading all
of the roughly 4,000 miles of California canals with solar
panels could save 63 billion gallons of water every year by
reducing evaporation, while potentially creating about one
sixth of the state’s current power capacity.
The central and upper Midwest, Texas and Southern California
face an increased risk of power outages this summer from
extreme heat, wildfires and extended drought, the nation’s grid
monitor warned yesterday. In a dire new assessment, the North
American Electric Reliability Corp. (NERC) described regions of
the country pushed closer than ever toward energy emergencies
by a combination of climate change impacts and a transition
from traditional fossil fuel generators to carbon-free
Blue states, green groups and tribes that are challenging a
Trump-era Clean Water Act rule are trying an unusual procedural
move that could allow them to restart their case in federal
district court and bypass an appeal that’s currently underway
in the Ninth Circuit. The coalition is suing the U.S.
Environmental Protection Agency to overturn a 2020 rule that
restricted states’ and tribes’ authority to deny permits for
projects such as pipelines under section 401 of the Clean Water
Perched along the Russian River, the town of Healdsburg is
mostly known for great wine and weekend getaways. But these
days the sun is doing more than ripening grapes. It’s producing
power in an unusual setting. … Crowley and wastewater
manager Rob Scates are showing off what’s believed to be the
largest floating solar farm in the country. The panels are
anchored on the surface of two ponds at the city’s wastewater
treatment facility. And while they’re floating, the panels are
also supplying roughly 8% of the city’s electrical
I don’t think these disasters will convince us to curb fossil
fuel pollution. Let me explain. First, available social science
doesn’t support the notion that climate disasters lead to
widespread changes in public opinion. A 2021 study from the
journal Climate Change found hurricanes provide a modest nudge
in favor of support for reducing carbon dioxide pollution.
Wildfires and floods, the other disasters studied, did not sway
people. -Written by John D. Sutter, CNN contributor,
National Geographic Explorer and MIT science journalism
A settlement has finally been reached in the seven year-lawsuit
regarding the 2015 Santa Barbara oil spill. Plains All American
Pipeline has agreed to pay $230 million to fishers, fish
processors and shoreline property residents who are members of
two classes in a class-action lawsuit filed against the
company. The lawsuit was filed after a corroded pipeline
spilled an estimated 15,000 barrels of crude oil into the
Pacific Ocean in 2015.
A Thursday ruling by the California Coastal Commission denying
a Southern California desalination project appears as if it
could impact the prospects of California American Water Co.’s
plan to construct a desal plant along the Monterey Peninsula.
But Cal Am says the Commission’s decision to deny Poseidon
Water Co.’s Huntington Beach project and any impacts on Cal
Am’s long-proposed desal project on the Monterey Peninsula is
comparing apples to oranges.
Climate change is making the West hotter and drier, threatening
the Colorado River system, including the man-made reservoirs of
Lake Powell in Utah and Lake Mead in Nevada that provide water
for 40 million people in seven states. The National Park
Service has been forced to shut down 11 boat ramps at the Lake
Powell recreation area, which draws millions of visitors. The
critically low lake levels could soon cause the Glen Canyon Dam
to stop producing hydropower for more than five million people
in six states, forcing them to find alternative sources.
As California battles a historic drought and a water crisis
looms, the state’s coastline protection agency is poised to
vote Thursday on whether it will allow a $1.4 billion
desalinization plant in Huntington Beach that would convert
ocean water into municipal water for Orange County residents.
Poseidon Water, which has been trying to build the plant for
decades, says it would be capable of producing up to 50 million
gallons of drinking water a day, helping to make the region
more drought resilient. But desalination opponents argue less
expensive and less harmful conservation tactics should be the
The Salton Sea Basin feels almost alien. It lies where two
enormous chunks of the Earth’s crust, the North American Plate
and the Pacific Plate, are very slowly pushing past one another
creating an enormous low spot in the land. It’s a big, flat
gray desert ringed with high mountains that look pale in the
distance. It’s hot and, deep underground, it is literally
boiling. The Salton Sea, which lies roughly in the middle of
the massive geologic low point, isn’t really a sea, at all. The
largest inland lake in California, it’s 51 miles long from
north to south and 17 miles wide, but gradually shrinking as
less and less water flows into it.
More organic farming. Less driving. No more natural gas in new
buildings. Electric off-road vehicles. For the first time
in five years, California regulators have released an
ambitious plan for tackling climate change.
… Among the methods: encouraging Californians to eat
plant- or cell-based products instead of meat. Doubling
the amount of acres of cropland that are certified organic.
… Restoring an immense amount of acreage in the
Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta — 130,000 acres under one
scenario. For context, a state-funded project in the works that
will convert 1,200 acres will have taken 20 years and $63
million when it’s complete.
The implementation of the Sustainable Groundwater Management
Act (SGMA) over the next two decades may require taking at
least 500,000 acres of cropland in the San Joaquin Valley out
of irrigated production (about 10%). To soften the blow on jobs
and economic activity, it will be important to identify
alternative land uses that generate income. Solar development
is one of the most promising options.
California likely will have an energy shortfall equivalent to
what it takes to power about 1.3 million homes when use is at
its peak during the hot and dry summer months, state officials
said Friday. Threats from drought, extreme heat and wildfires,
plus supply chain and regulatory issues hampering the solar
industry will create challenges for energy reliability this
summer, the officials said. … Large hydropower projects
generated nearly 14% of the state’s electricity in 2020,
according to the independent system operator.
California dairy farms will soon be able to feed their cows
seaweed to fight climate change after the state department of
food and agriculture approved the use of a seaweed feed shown
to reduce methane emissions from cow burps, the first in the
U.S. to do so. On Friday, Blue Ocean Barns, which produces the
red seaweed at a farm on the Big Island of Hawaii, announced
that the supplement had been approved for use on both
conventional and dairy farms. Called Brominata, the red seaweed
variety has been shown to cut methane emissions in dairy cows
by 52% over 50 days but so far has only been used in trials.
California’s inability to meet its long-stated goal of cutting
solid waste by 75 percent by 2020 has prompted
environmentalists to craft a ballot initiative targeting
single-use plastic products – including a sharp limit on their
production. The initiative on the Nov. 8 ballot marks the
second time in six years that California voters have decided on
plastics use. … The latest initiative,
the California Recycling and Plastic Reduction Act, would
require all single-use plastic packaging and foodware to be
recyclable, reusable, refillable, or compostable by 2030.
[D]esalinization … draws in saltwater and, utilizing
reverse osmosis, purifies the water to a consumable standard.
Around the globe, countries have adopted desalinization as a
considerable part of their water portfolio. … California is
shockingly behind the curve when it comes to embracing the
practice. .. Rather than removing [Diablo Canyon Power
Plant] from the region, we should double down on
production and build an additional site to power a mega-sized
desalinization plant. -Written by Assemblymember Devon J. Mathis.
Reporting on clean energy from my kitchen table is one thing.
Standing atop the Continental Divide — wind whipping at my
face, construction workers grading roads nearby, pronghorn
jogging across the sagebrush landscape — is something else
entirely. … As we stood on Miller Hill — which is not named
for the Anschutz executive — we looked west over lands where
rainfall drains into the Little Snake River, later flowing into
the Yampa River, the Green, the Colorado and eventually the
Gulf of California — unless it’s diverted first to grow crops,
or to provide drinking water for cities such as Los Angeles or
Las Vegas. Written by LA Times energy columnist Sammy Roth.
About 40 miles north of the California-Mexico border lies the
shrinking, landlocked lake known as the Salton Sea. … [T]he
California Energy Commission estimates that there’s enough
lithium here to meet all of the United States’ projected future
demand, and 40% of the entire world’s demand.
… Traditionally, lithium extraction involves either
open-pit mining or evaporation ponds, which work by pumping
lithium-containing brine to the surface and waiting for the
water to dry up. … But at the Salton Sea, three
companies are developing chemical processes to extract lithium
in a much cleaner way, taking advantage of the Salton Sea’s
rich geothermal resources.
In a first-of-its-kind legal action, California is
interrogating the role of fossil fuel and chemical giants in
driving the plastics pollution crisis and deceiving consumers
about recycling. California Attorney General Rob Bonta (D) said
yesterday that the state is investigating Exxon Mobil Corp. and
other companies for “their role in causing and exacerbating”
plastics contamination. … “In California and across the
globe, we are seeing the catastrophic results of the fossil
fuel industry’s decades-long campaign of deception. Plastic
pollution is seeping into our waterways, poisoning our
environment, and blighting our landscapes,” said Bonta, a
Democrat, in a statement.
Wildcat speculators, big oil companies, and state officials
alike have been salivating over the Uinta Basin’s rich oil
deposits for years … In December, the federal Surface
Transportation Board (STB) signed off on a plan to
build an 88-mile railway from the Uinta Basin to a rail
terminal about 100 miles south of Salt Lake City.
… Environmentalists, however, warn that … during
a time of extreme drought, the construction will impact more
than 400 streams, many within the critical watershed of the
Colorado River, which provides drinking water to 40 million
people in the West.
Some ideas are so satisfying that you wonder how they haven’t
been done before. Solar canals, which will get their first U.S.
pilot later this year in California, fit that mold. Western
states are crisscrossed by thousands of miles of irrigation
canals, some as wide as 150 feet, others just 10 feet across.
By covering those channels with solar panels, researchers say,
we could produce renewable energy without taking up precious
land. At the same time, the added shade could prevent billions
of gallons of water loss through evaporation.
Over the last century, cities including Los Angeles, Phoenix
and Las Vegas reshaped the American West by building coal
plants, hydropower dams and nuclear reactors to fuel their
growth. Now those cities are on the verge of doing it again,
only this time with solar panels, wind turbines, long-distance
transmission lines and lithium mines. These proposals are
igniting opposition from conservationists, tribal activists and
rural residents looking to protect landscapes and ecosystems —
and at times their way of life.
California prohibits farmers from growing crops with
chemical-laced wastewater from fracking. Yet the state still
allows them to use water produced by conventional oil
drilling—a chemical soup that contains many of the same toxic
compounds. When rumors spread several years ago that California
was growing some of the nation’s nuts, citrus and vegetables
with wastewater produced from hydraulic fracturing, known as
fracking, regulators said that would be illegal.
As part of a broader research effort to conserve California’s
scarce water resources, a $20-million pilot project in the
state will investigate the use of solar canals as a major
source of renewable energy. Known as Project Nexus, the
state-funded venture is expected to demonstrate how covering
canals with solar panels can reduce water delivery system costs
and generate enough electricity to meet ambitious clean power
Amid the sweeping backdrop of the Topatopa Mountains and a
field of colorful organic vegetables, members of the Ventura
County farming community joined advocates and water experts to
urge the passage of Measures A and B. The twin ballot measures
would close a loophole in Ventura County allowing oil and gas
companies to drill without environmental review using
antiquated permits. In most cases, these permits were granted
between 1930 and 1970. Cynthia King’s farm, where the
press conference took place, is surrounded by a CUP that was
approved in 1928.
The lower Colorado River has virtually every drop allocated, yet demand is growing from myriad sources — increasing population, declining habitat, drought and climate change.
The 1,450-mile river is a lifeline to 40 million people in the Southwest across seven states, 30 tribal nations and Mexico. How the Lower Basin states – Arizona, California and Nevada – use and manage this water to meet agricultural, urban, environmental and industrial needs was the focus of this tour.
Hyatt Place Las Vegas At Silverton Village
8380 Dean Martin Drive
Las Vegas, NV 89139
This event explored the lower Colorado River where virtually every drop of the river is allocated, yet demand is growing from myriad sources — increasing population, declining habitat, drought and climate change.
The 1,450-mile river is a lifeline to 40 million people in the Southwest across seven states and Mexico. How the Lower Basin states – Arizona, California and Nevada – use and manage this water to meet agricultural, urban, environmental and industrial needs was the focus of this tour.
The majestic beauty of the Sierra
Nevada forest is awe-inspiring, but beneath the dazzling blue
sky, there is a problem: A century of fire suppression and
logging practices have left trees too close together. Millions of
trees have died, stricken by drought and beetle infestation.
Combined with a forest floor cluttered with dry brush and debris,
it’s a wildfire waiting to happen.
Fires devastate the Sierra watersheds upon which millions of
Californians depend — scorching the ground, unleashing a
battering ram of debris and turning hillsides into gelatinous,
This tour explored the lower Colorado River where virtually every drop of the river is allocated, yet demand is growing from myriad sources — increasing population, declining habitat, drought and climate change.
The 1,450-mile river is a lifeline to 40 million people in the Southwest across seven states and Mexico. How the Lower Basin states – Arizona, California and Nevada – use and manage this water to meet agricultural, urban, environmental and industrial needs is the focus of this tour.
3333 Blue Diamond Road
Las Vegas, NV 89139
We explored the lower Colorado River where virtually every drop
of the river is allocated, yet demand is growing from myriad
sources — increasing population, declining habitat, drought and
The 1,450-mile river is a lifeline to 40 million people in
the Southwest across seven states and Mexico. How the Lower Basin
states – Arizona, California and Nevada – use and manage this
water to meet agricultural, urban, environmental and industrial
needs was the focus of this tour.
Hampton Inn Tropicana
4975 Dean Martin Drive, Las Vegas, NV 89118
This three-day, two-night tour explored the lower Colorado River
where virtually every drop of the river is allocated, yet demand
is growing from myriad sources — increasing population,
declining habitat, drought and climate change.
The 1,450-mile river is a lifeline to 40 million people in
the Southwest across seven states and Mexico. How the Lower Basin
states – Arizona, California and Nevada – use and manage this
water to meet agricultural, urban, environmental and industrial
needs is the focus of this tour.
Best Western McCarran Inn
4970 Paradise Road
Las Vegas, NV 89119
This 30-minute documentary-style DVD on the history and current
state of the San Joaquin River Restoration Program includes an
overview of the geography and history of the river, historical
and current water delivery and uses, the genesis and timeline of
the 1988 lawsuit, how the settlement was reached and what was
This 25-minute documentary-style DVD, developed in partnership
with the California Department of Water Resources, provides an
excellent overview of climate change and how it is already
affecting California. The DVD also explains what scientists
anticipate in the future related to sea level rise and
precipitation/runoff changes and explores the efforts that are
underway to plan and adapt to climate.
20-minute DVD that explains the problem with polluted stormwater,
and steps that can be taken to help prevent such pollution and
turn what is often viewed as a “nuisance” into a water resource
through various activities.
Many Californians don’t realize that when they turn on the
faucet, the water that flows out could come from a source close
to home or one hundreds of miles away. Most people take their
water for granted; not thinking about the elaborate systems and
testing that go into delivering clean, plentiful water to
households throughout the state. Where drinking water comes from,
how it’s treated, and what people can do to protect its quality
are highlighted in this 2007 PBS documentary narrated by actress
A 30-minute version of the 2007 PBS documentary Drinking Water:
Quenching the Public Thirst. This DVD is ideal for showing at
community forums and speaking engagements to help the public
understand the complex issues surrounding the elaborate systems
and testing that go into delivering clean, plentiful water to
households throughout the state.
Water truly has shaped California into the great state it is
today. And if it is water that made California great, it’s the
fight over – and with – water that also makes it so critically
important. In efforts to remap California’s circulatory system,
there have been some critical events that had a profound impact
on California’s water history. These turning points not only
forced a re-evaluation of water, but continue to impact the lives
of every Californian. This 2005 PBS documentary offers a
historical and current look at the major water issues that shaped
the state we know today. Includes a 12-page viewer’s guide with
background information, historic timeline and a teacher’s lesson.
This beautiful 24×36 inch poster, suitable for framing, displays
the rivers, lakes and reservoirs, irrigated farmland, urban areas
and Indian reservations within the Klamath River Watershed. The
map text explains the many issues facing this vast,
15,000-square-mile watershed, including fish restoration;
agricultural water use; and wetlands. Also included are
descriptions of the separate, but linked, Klamath Basin
Restoration Agreement and the Klamath Hydroelectric Agreement,
and the next steps associated with those agreements. Development
of the map was funded by a grant from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife
A companion to the Truckee River Basin Map poster, this 24×36
inch poster, suitable for framing, explores the Carson River, and
its link to the Truckee River. The map includes Lahontan Dam and
Reservoir, the Carson Sink, and the farming areas in the basin.
Map text discusses the region’s hydrology and geography, the
Newlands Project, land and water use within the basin and
wetlands. Development of the map was funded by a grant from the
U.S. Bureau of Reclamation Mid-Pacific Region, Lahontan Basin
Redesigned in 2017, this beautiful map depicts the seven
Western states that share the Colorado River with Mexico. The
Colorado River supplies water to nearly 40 million people in
Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah, Wyoming
and the country of Mexico. Text on this beautiful, 24×36-inch
map, which is suitable for framing, explains the river’s
apportionment, history and the need to adapt its management for
urban growth and expected climate change impacts.
The Colorado River provides water to 40 million people and 4
million acres of farmland in a region encompassing some 246,000
square miles in the southwestern United States. The 32-page
Layperson’s Guide to the Colorado River covers the history of the
river’s development; negotiations over division of its water; the
items that comprise the Law of the River; and a chronology of
significant Colorado River events.
The 24-page Layperson’s Guide to California Water provides an
excellent overview of the history of water development and use in
California. It includes sections on flood management; the state,
federal and Colorado River delivery systems; Delta issues; water
rights; environmental issues; water quality; and options for
stretching the water supply such as water marketing and
conjunctive use. New in this 10th edition of the guide is a
section on the human need for water.
The construction of Glen Canyon Dam in 1964 created Lake Powell.
Both are located in north-central Arizona near the Utah border.
Lake Powell acts as a holding tank for outflow from the Colorado
River Upper Basin States: Colorado, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming.
The water stored in Lake Powell is used for recreation, power
generation and delivering water to the Lower Basin states of
California, Arizona, and Nevada.
This printed issue of Western Water looks at hydraulic
fracturing, or “fracking,” in California. Much of the information
in the article was presented at a conference hosted by the
Groundwater Resources Association of California.
The connection between water and energy is more relevant than
ever. After existing in separate realms for years, the maxim that
it takes water to produce energy and energy to produce water has
prompted a re-thinking of management strategies, including an
emphasis on renewable energy use by water agencies.
This printed issue of Western Water looks at the energy
requirements associated with water use and the means by which
state and local agencies are working to increase their knowledge
and improve the management of both resources.
This printed copy of Western Water examines climate change –
what’s known about it, the remaining uncertainty and what steps
water agencies are talking to prepare for its impact. Much of the
information comes from the October 2007 California Climate Change
and Water Adaptation Summit sponsored by the Water Education
Foundation and DWR and the November 2007 California Water Policy
Conference sponsored by Public Officials for Water and
Hydropower generation is prevalent in the West, where rapidly
flowing river systems have been tapped for generations to produce
electricity. Hydropower is a clean, steady and reliable energy
source, but the damming of rivers has exacted a toll on the
environment, affecting, among other things, the migration of fish
to vestigial spawning grounds. Many of those projects are due to
be relicensed by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.
The California power crisis has made international headlines. But
what is the link between water and power in California? How is
the state’s dry spell affecting its hydropower generation? How
has the electric crisis affected water users in the state? These
questions and others are addressed in this issue of Western