Current Affair: When It Comes to the Relationship of Water and Power, It’s Complicated


Some things were destined for each other. Salt and pepper. Kool & the Gang. Water and power. But the relationship is complicated. Even as hydroelectric dams help juice the power grid, moving water around eats up almost a fifth of all the electricity used in the state. For instance, the California Aqueduct uses pumps to lift an artificial river 3,000 feet over the Tehachapi Mountains—the biggest power draw in the state. And we burn up huge quantities of natural gas and diesel fuel each year to pump water from the ground for farms, treat it, cool it, and heat it. In that way energy is “embedded” in water. Which is why saving water saves energy and reduces carbon dioxide emissions—and another reason why recycling water makes so much sense: It requires less energy to reuse water, the way Orange County does (the O.C. is a leader in the field), than to bring it here in the first place from Northern California.

Water in L.A.