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The Sonoma County Water District in California recently announced that their customers will soon be able to receive installation of water- and energy-efficient fixtures in their homes or businesses for free. Perhaps most interesting is that the program will be used to acquire carbon-reduction credits.
The program is noteworthy for its aggressiveness and for offering to cover 100 percent of the costs for eligible customers who install high efficiency toilets or urinals, low flow showerheads, and faucet aerators. According to a press release:
“Our goal is to replace 100 percent of older fixtures in each of the sanitation service areas over the next 10 years with newer, more water efficient fixtures,” said SCWA Chairman Paul Kelley. “Achieving this goal will result in an annual indoor water savings of over 1,800 acre feet.” In Sonoma County, each household annually uses approximately 110,000 gallons of water - about one-third of an acre foot of water.
“Participation in the direct installation program is easy. Customers simply call a participating plumber, compare installation quotes, schedule their installation appointment, and watch their water and energy bills drop,” said SCWA Director Efren Carrillo.
In communities that might not have a strong incentive to reduce water consumption solely for the sake of saving water, the energy and carbon savings that can result from conservation programs can bolster the case for using less water.
As we described in The Carbon Footprint of Water, it takes at least 520 billion kilowatt hours - the equivalent of 13% of U.S. electricity consumption - to pump, treat and heat water in the United States. That's the same amount of electricity that is produced from 150 typical coal fired power plants. The carbon emissions total roughly 290 million metric tons, or the amount of greenhouse gases emitted from over 53 million cars.
All of this is to say that water agencies - or more specifically, water conservation - can play a vital role in helping communities fight climate change and reach their carbon reduction goals. Although the Sonoma County Water District doesn't say how much energy they expect to save from their program, they make it clear in their press release that carbon emissions reductions is one of their goals:
The program will also quantify and acquire carbon reduction credits that will be used to help achieve a goal of reducing greenhouse gases by 25 percent by 2015 through the Sonoma County Community Climate Action Plan. About 1 pound of carbon dioxide is produced for each kWh. Customers participating in the program will allow the Agency to own these carbon reduction credits and count the savings toward the Climate Action Plan goals.