Thursday, March 28, 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:

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.