New Law Takes Aim at GHG Associated with California’s Water Sector


The recent wave of climate change legislation in California also included a new and not particularly well-known law aimed at curbing greenhouse gas (“GHG”) emissions associated with water use. SB 1425 will create a voluntary registry to track the water sector’s energy use and GHG emissions.

According to Senator Pavley, the author of SB 1425, “While some of the water-energy related climate pollution is already covered in the state’s cap-and-trade program (via the electricity generation sector), the state does not currently have a clear accounting of the total greenhouse gas emissions associated with the water system.”

SB 1425 requires CalEPA to oversee the development of a registry for GHG emissions that result from the “water-energy nexus” using the best-available data. Participation in the registry is voluntary and open to water agencies, large water consumers, businesses and others conducting business in the state.  SB 1425 provides that entities participating in the registry may qualify for GHG emission reduction incentives.

According to a report from the California Energy Commission (“CEC”), water-related energy use in California consumes nearly 20% of the state’s electricity and 30% of the state’s non-power plant natural gas (natural gas not used to produce electricity).  The water sector uses electricity to pump, treat, transport, deliver, and heat water.

The CEC also found that the most energy-intensive uses of water in California are associated with end uses by the customer (e.g., heating, processing, and pressurizing water), and 75% of the electricity and nearly all of the natural gas use related to water in California is associated with water heating. Additionally, expected increases in groundwater pumping, water treatment, and water recycling, due to drought conditions in the state, mean the energy intensity of water will likely increase.

A legislatively mandated “registry” for data collection often means that the data collected will lead to regulation of the subject under study. With Democrats solidly in control of both houses of the state legislature and the Governor’s office, our readers should expect to see more climate change-related regulations from either the legislature or the California Air Resources Board addressing GHG emissions from the water sector’s energy use.

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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