The Water-Energy Nexus

June Great Story by Arya Moalemi, Southern California Fellow

“When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the Universe.”

John Muir is quoted as saying this, or something similar. This quote was found via the Sierra Club, and I would expect that they would have the most accurate variation. But more, I find that the longer I work in any field, I realize how much weight this quote holds and how true it is. Just like John Donne considers “No man is an island”, neither is any department or agency. Everything is connected to every other thing in some way to some degree, and some much more than others. Energy and water are two of those things.

I recently learned that because of the drought in California, all energy utility companies met and surpassed all of their efficiency expectations and goals. It requires tremendous amounts of energy to have clean water come out of our taps and it requires a huge amount of water to light up our houses. About 19% of all energy in California is used for water (moving it, treating it, pumping it). Despite this huge connection between the two agencies, there remains huge opportunities to further connect these two siloed worlds.

This past month, I was fortunate to attend the Statewide Energy Efficiency Conference, and two things stood out most to me: the lack of industrial diversity present and the wonderful discussion about the connection between water and energy. The agencies and members present at the conference were all persons eager to do a great at promoting and moving to increased energy efficiency and they came from all around the state and from agencies of all sorts: private to public. However, they all came from one island: energy. To my knowledge, I was the only person present from a water agency and the poster that I presented was the only one that also included water. Similarly, when an impromptu survey was taken, it showed that of the hundreds of people present, only 2 were elected officials.

The importance of department and agency and community integration and discussion seems like the lesson I’ve learned most from working at IEUA and SAWPA thus far. Becoming more energy efficient is incredibly important, but in order to do so most effectively, elected officials and communities need to be aware about what’s going on and electricity agencies need to be in talks with water agencies. Everything is hitched to everything else.

When asked about SAWPA’s water-energy savings program, one energy agency asked what involvement electrical companies had. The answer was none. I am positive that won’t be the answer for much longer. The worlds are too closely hitched to ignore the benefits much longer.