How to Save 890 Million Gallons of Water a Day

A new study out of the Pacific Institute in Oakland finds that California can save more than a million acre-feet of water each year — or 890 million gallons a day — through conservation and improved water efficiency.  That’s close to 12 times the annual water usage of the city of San Francisco, and it’s roughly equal to the water required to grow all the grain produced in California.

The report’s lead author, Heather Cooley, says the strategies outlined in this report can help the state achieve its goal of a 20% reduction of per capita urban water use by 2020.

The Final California 20×2020 Water Conservation Plan [PDF], which was released in February, lays out a plan to reduce urban water use from 192 gallons per capita per day to 154 gallons by 2020. According to the plan, this represents an annual savings of 1.59 million acre-feet.

“California’s water problems require a portfolio of solutions. That’s certainly true,” said Cooley. “But we can’t do everything at once. We must do the most effective things first, and certainly water conservation and efficiency falls into that category.”

The state’s reservoirs are actually doing pretty well right now, thanks to a wet winter, but no one thinks that the state’s water woes are over. Population is expected to increase, especially in the driest regions — the Central Valley and the South. And scientists predict that the state is going to grow hotter and drier as the years go on. Plans are in the works for increasing water supply and improving the state’s water infrastructure, but many of those are on hold. The $11 billion water bond originally slated for the ballot this fall was bumped to 2012, so a major water overhaul is not on the near horizon.

Cooley says that many proposed projects are more expensive and yield less water than conservation. She cited the proposed dam at Temperance Flat on the San Joaquin River, which would provide far less water (approximately 158,00 acre-feet) and would cost more (the Bureau of Reclamation estimates $3.4 billion) and would have environmental consequences.

Conservation, she argues has no negative environmental consequences, and it actually saves energy.  But it’s not free. Saving 890 million gallons of water a day through increased efficiencies would cost the state approximately $1.9 billion, Cooley estimates.

“There is an upfront investment, but in the long term, these efficiency improvements are far cheaper than many new supply options,” she said.

The plan targets both urban and agricultural use. In cities, the report recommends changes such as replacing inefficient toilets, washing machines and other appliances, and swapping out lawns for landscaping with low-water-use plants. In the agricultural sector, which currently uses 80% of the state’s developed water supply, the report recommends implementing more efficient irrigation technologies and strategies.

  • Ray Walker

    890 million gallons per day is one million acre feet ( AF) each year, not the mentioned 1.59 million AF.

    On paper, cutting back on usage means less water diverted, but the amount consumed is often unchanged or the so called “savings” simply makes more water available for others in a given system and thus there is nothing to be distributed to other users or uses.

    A real NEW million acre feet of fresh water is hard to legally and physically find. It has however been done ! Development of such a new Source can only be accomplished if it is economically feasible and WILL NOT DAMAGE the environment or the water rights of others. Such a new Source in this day and age would be considered by almost all water experts to be impossible. However, the impossible has been done ! The information is offered to California, Nevada and the Bureau of Reclamation for FREE ! The MILLION ACRE FEET of fresh water can be stored/accumulated in the available air space in Lake Mead to keep it full ( 28.6 million acre feet) rather than go DRY as predicted ( or should I have said planned ? ).

    There is a problem … Neither California, Nevada nor the Bureau can accept the information for evaluation for FREE because they all say they cannot be trusted to receive the information confidentially even for FREE !

    No one wants a penny from California, Nevada or the Bureau unless these entities, collectively or individually, analyze the Source and determine that the Source is as represented and on behalf of the people they represent, choose to pursue development of the Source.

    After years of analysis and effort, is it reasonable to expect a small finder’s fee for such a verified discovery ?

    If anyone agrees, ask the appropriate entity or your representative to encourage an investigation which will take about an hour of any water attorney’s time.

    WaterSourceWaterBank waterrdw@yahoo.com

  • http://www.kqed.org/climatewatch Gretchen Weber

    Hi Ray,
    Thanks for your thoughts. Just one note: the title’s “890 gallons per day” refers to the one million acre-feet the Pacific Institute report says can be saved through conservation and efficiency. The 1.59 million acre-feet mentioned is from California’s 20×2020 Water Plan, which aims to conserve 1.59 MAF by 2020. Links to both of the reports are included in the post.
    Gretchen

    • Ray Walker

      Thanks Gretchen

      The same offer to disclose for FREE has been made to the Pacific Institute & Peter Gleick. They make a lot of “waves”, but when it comes down to it, they are not at all interested in what a million acre feet each year could do for the environment on the Colorado River, California or Nevada. Storage/accumulation of water from the Source in Lake Mead is only one option ( not necessarily the one I would suggest, if given an opportunity to fully disclose). Directly and/or by exchange, the water could be utilized throughout California and Nevada ( also Arizona and even old Mexico).

      My qualifications in the water rights arena include many years with the State Engineerʼs Office as a hydrographer and administrator of water resources on the South Platte, Rio Grande and Colorado Rivers. As a Water Court Referee, I processed and wrote some 2500 water decrees that were confirmed and signed by the District Water Judge. As a private consultant, I evaluated, formulated and completed hundreds of water court applications which involved new water rights, plans for augmentation, exchanges, changes of water rights, well permit approvals and required diligence filings.

      If I can ever be of help to you, please let me know.

      Ray Walker
      Retired Water Rights Analyst
      waterrdw@yahoo.com

  • http://www.farmwater.org Mike Wade

    The California Farm Water Coalition delivered the following letter and supporting materials today to California legislators pointing out the failures of the recent report by the Pacific Institute that claimed farmers could conserve an additional 700,000 acre-feet of water.

    California Farm Water Coalition letter to State legislators
    http://www.farmwater.org/images/stories/pdf/cover%20letter-legislature092710.pdf

    Northern California Water Association letter to Heather Cooley
    http://www.farmwater.org/images/stories/pdf/cooley%20ltr%209%2017%2010.pdf

    AWMC and CFWC San Joaquin Valley irrigation practices survey
    http://www.farmwater.org/images/stories/pdf/awmc%20survey%20report08312010.pdf

    Mike Wade
    California Farm Water Coalition