The Sonoma County Water Agency has a duty to secure water for future generations of Sonoma County residents.
The potential impacts of climate change will make it more difficult to meet that mission. It is imperative that Sonoma Water uses non polluting sources of energy in order to keep our watersheds' environment healthy. Our freshwater resources are very limited, where only 1% of all water on earth is available for human consumption. Climate science also leads us to believe that California has, and will continue to face periods of longer droughts, while also experiencing heavier rainfall from intense atmospheric rivers. With water scarcity and climate change impacts in mind, Sonoma Water is looking ahead to become smarter with our water resources and water facilities. The more we can do to mitigate and adapt to the impact of climate change, the more secure the water sources will be for the future.
The Sonoma County Water Agency will inevitably be one of the largest energy users in Sonoma County. We treat, pump and distribute water and wastewater for more than 600,000 residents in Sonoma and Marin counties. In light of this, in 2015, the Water Agency achieved the goal of operating a carbon free water system. Our commitment to carbon free water means that Sonoma Water is devoted to solely utilizing energy that comes from non fossil fuel based resources. To achieve and sustain carbon free water, Sonoma Water is actively analyzing its energy portfolio in order to reduce its energy and fuel needs through cost-effective strategies involving efficiency and renewable energy. Through this effort, Sonoma Water is helping to pioneer new technologies that have been carefully evaluated for economic viability.
Sonoma Water contracts to procure over 99% of its electricity needs through renewable and non fossil fuel based resources, thus achieving a carbon neutral electricity supply to power its system. Sonoma Water has four solar photovoltaic projects totaling about 2 MW which on average amounts to 5% of its total electricity needs. Sonoma Water procures local geothermal energy from Sonoma Clean Power's EverGreen program for about 6% of its electricity needs. The remainder of our energy mix is met through a mix of renewable and carbon free resources from the Power and Water Resources Pooling Authority (PWRPA) and Lake Sonoma Warm Springs Dam hydropower. Altogether our hydropower supply amounts to 68% of our overall load. Of the total renewable and carbon free sources the Water Agency utilizes, 20% are from local sources within Sonoma County.
The Sonoma County Water Agency was featured in the Union of Concerned Scientists' report "Clean Energy Opportunities in California's Water Sector". “This report finds that water and wastewater utilities are in a unique position to help California adapt to severe droughts and to achieve the state’s climate goals,” said Dr. Juliet Christian-Smith, a climate scientist in the California office of the Union of Concerned Scientists and co-author of the report. “The Sonoma County Water Agency is showing that making investments in clean, renewable sources of energy benefits customers and the environment by supplying carbon-free water.” The report is available at www.ucsusa.org/CAwaterenergy.
The Water Agency has received recognition from numerous distinguished organizations for its Carbon Free Water program. Below are several of the awards presented to the Water Agency.
Best Energy Program - Medium Utility
On March 22, 2011, the Sonoma County Water Agency Board of Directors directed Sonoma Water to investigate Community Choice Energy (CCE) while concurrently approving the Energy Policy. Community Choice Energy allows one or more cities and/or counties to form a service area that provides for the option to purchase power generation from local sources that has a different electricity mix than that of the original investor owned utility. Creating competition in the electricity generation market, by creating choice in energy providers, is good for the community and the environment by driving electricity rates to be most competitive while also having a choice in the types of energy you can purchase. Transmission, distribution, customer service and billing remain the same (delivered through the existing utility PG&E). Customers within this service area can opt out of participating in the CCE program and continue to receive their power generation services through the existing investor owned utility--although the starting generic rate for Sonoma Clean Power's Clean Start Program is cheaper than that of PG&E. Learn more about Sonoma Clean Power.
Sonoma Water aggressively researches and pursues federal and state grants to fund a majority of its energy and sustainability projects. In the past, grants have come from U.S. Department of Energy and the California Energy Commission. Sonoma Water also reviews other opportunities to support its projects like developing partnerships with research and academic entities to acquire funding for needed feasibility studies or by building partnerships with private entities to bring about more public participation in the local communities. Sonoma Water has a dedicated staff member whose main focus is finding grants for not only energy and sustainability projects but for all of the Water Agency’s projects and operations.
If you have any questions or would like additional information about the Carbon Free Water Program, please click here to submit a comment form.