As we move into the summer months, Californians will be encouraged to conserve water. Water conservation has the added benefit of conserving energy as well. This Water-Energy nexus will become increasingly important as California continues to make progress on its water and energy efficiency goals. The following LGSEC Member Spotlight showcases a great example of the benefits of water and energy conservation.
Ecology Action created the WaterLink program to save energy and fight climate change by providing direct installation of hot water saving devices for single and multi-family residential units, commercial kitchens, nursing facilities, and hotels. The program also replaces turf-grass with low-water plants at schools and other public facilities. WaterLink is different from typical energy saving programs because these services are provided at no cost specifically to areas classified as disadvantaged communities (DACs)- areas disproportionately burdened with a greater exposure of pollution and poverty, which negatively impacts their environmental and economic vitality.
WaterLink focuses on three regions and chooses DACs with at least a 75% rating on the California Environmental Screening Tool version 2 (CalEnviroScreen Tool). It began in Santa Clara County in 2016 and expanded to include Monterey Bay and South San Francisco Bay Area in 2017.
In all regions, the program sends multilingual teams door-to-door to install efficient faucet aerators and showerheads in single-family homes and apartments, regardless if residents are renting or own the property. The program has weekly drawings for new efficient dishwashers and washing machines for residents. “Neighborhood leaders” can receive these efficient appliances by referring at least 10 people. If found, the program will spend up to $300 per home to fix substantial leaks in sinks and showers. Apartment managers can arrange for the program to upgrade showerheads and aerators in all units in their buildings by appointment, as well as upgrade their commercial clothes washers.
For businesses, the focus is on pre-rinse spray valves, tap aerators, and rebates for new dish machines. For a single business, these replacements can reduce water consumption by more than 55,000 gallons of water per year. That’s about half a typical family’s water use for a year.
In Santa Clara County, the program successfully converted almost 50,000 square feet of turf at schools and community centers to climate-appropriate landscapes that include water-efficient irrigation systems, reduced water use (especially hot water) at nursing facilities and hotels through installing ozone laundry systems, installed hot water heaters in single-family homes, and upgraded hot water recirculation pump controls in apartments.
A total grant of $7.5 million was given by the California Department of Water Resources (DWR) which was sourced through California’s Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund. This fund is comprised of the revenue from the statewide Cap-and-Trade program, which requires a quarter of the proceeds to go towards DACs.
This project has been planned for December 2015 to March 2019. After serving 3,000 homes and 1,800 business in Santa Clara County and expecting a doubling in participants by the end of 2017, Ecology Action received additional funding to expand into the Monterey Bay and San Francisco Bay Areas. Ecology Action aims to serve an additional 9,800 homes and 1700 businesses through the expanded WaterLink Program in these two areas by the end of 2018.
By the time the program is completed, WaterLink will have helped save residents an estimated $1,514,658/year on water utility costs and $4,194,580/year on energy utility costs. Greenhouse gas emissions will be reduced by an estimated 143.5 million kg of CO2 while 765 million kilowatt hours of electricity will be saved. Additionally, the program is committed to hiring at least 50% of all staff from the community it is serving, which will amount to $1,830,000 in wages going to DAC economies.
Future of the Program:
Ecology Action collaborates with the following organizations: California Department of Water Resources, California Climate Investments, Santa Clara Valley Water District, Bay Area Water Supply and Conservation Agency, East Bay Municipal Utilities District, City of Daly City, City of Hayward, City of San Jose*, Monterey Peninsula Water Management District, City of Watsonville Public Works and Utilities, Pajaro-Sunny Mesa Water District, Marina Coast Water District, California Water Service Company- Salinas District, California Conservation Corps, and Monrovia Nursery Company.