Wednesday, March 27, 2013

My carbon or yours?

So our water district staff presented how they thought we could reach carbon neutrality by 2020. Depending on how you do the numbers, we became carbon neutral without even trying.

A lot depends on this:

(Full presentation via scrolling to March 26 2013, Item 4.1)

That's how much energy's used to cradle-to-grave a water drop from the Sierras to the outflow of a wastewater treatment plant. My district is a water wholesaler - we handle the first three steps, and then a water retailer (either a private company or city government) buys the water from us, gets it to the end user, and picks it up from there to a sewage treatment plant. You can see the main energy use is the end user, mainly because they heat it. Our staff argues that end use is by the end user, not our responsibility, and I said I'd have to chew on it. Any thoughts? Possibly relevant is that the vast majority of water we sell them never gets heated, so that end use figure conflates some very high and much lower energy using water together.

This is important not only because it says we're not causing that lion's share of energy use, but because our water conservation programs are focused on end users, so reducing their usage could be counted as an offset. That gets us to carbon neutrality pretty easily if you accept numbers that no one's really going to accept, but still more easily than I expected even with more realistic assumptions.

In other news, the Army Corps of Engineers is drawing a reasonable amount of tax money from our county but not funding many flood control or San Francisco Bay restoration projects. You can hear what passes for a "concerned statement" on my part below:

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If the link's bad, click here, go to March 26 2013, and the video segment is from 1:57:50 to  1:59:04.


John said...

Does your district include in "its responsibility" the energy expended to make what it accepts as its infrastructure (waterways and treatment plants) including the energy to manufacture the concrete/steel contained therein and that needed to and transport it to the site of use?

John Puma

Phillip said...

Has your district considered covering the canals with PV arrays, as is being done in Gujarat India? That would offset much of energy needed for conveyance and distribution. Plus there would be the added benefit of reduced evaporation - stretching the the amount of water available to customers.


Brian said...

John - No it didn't include new construction which is done by contractors, and I had problems with that. I brought up both cement and vehicle trips, and staff said they didn't have stats for those emissions. I think we might, especially for projects that have undergone environmental review.

Phillip - got a link for that? I brought up putting solar panels on top of our reservoirs. They said they're just looking at standard actions, not something experimental. However, we on the Board can decide to do some experimental things.

Phillip said...

There is an entry in wikipedia on the project under Canal Solar Power Project which gives several links to additional sources. And on google images you can find a number of pictures of the PV arrays being built over the canal.

I would think that the cost of these arrays would be lower than a comparable solar farm because the land involved is already paid for, access roads are already in place, the PV arrays can be brought on-line in sections, and they begin generating revenue (savings) from the day they are turned on.