Water agencies taking steps to deal with energy crisis, ACWA says

Water agencies are working to keep energy costs down and reduce the impact of blackouts, the head of the ACWA said today.

SACRAMENTO, Calif., Aug. 14, 2001 — The energy crisis has brought soaring costs and uncertainty to the water supply arena, but water agencies are working to keep costs down and reduce the impact of blackouts, the head of the Association of California Water Agencies (ACWA) said today.

Speaking at a major conference on energy issues held in Sacramento, ACWA Executive Director Stephen K. Hall outlined an array of steps water agencies are taking to deal with skyrocketing energy bills and the threat of outages. The conference was sponsored by the California Energy Commission and the U.S. Department of Energy.

"Water agencies account for 5% to 7% of the electricity consumed in the state - making them the number one user among the state's industries," Hall said. "With energy costs representing up to 80% of a water supplier's operating costs, it's no wonder water agencies are motivated to find ways to lessen the impact on their operations and their customers."

Although many water agencies have been forced to raise water rates to keep up with rising energy costs, Hall said water suppliers are making great strides in reducing energy usage by installing more efficient pumps and shifting some operations to off-peak times.

Some agencies are pursuing on-site energy generation to help meet their needs and, potentially, provide additional capacity that could be sold to utilities or other users, he said.

Hall noted that an ACWA-sponsored purchasing cooperative has arranged for water agencies to purchase microturbine generators and photovoltaic systems at reduced costs. The cooperative, known as ACWA-USA, has also put together an energy consulting program to help water agencies evaluate their systems and analyze alternatives for reducing costs.

Water agencies are seeking not only to reduce costs but also to avoid the threat of rotating outages, Hall said. Water and wastewater agencies are not exempt from blackouts under current state regulations, and water agency managers fear that a one-hour outage could trigger problems that would disrupt water service for two or three days.

ACWA is a statewide organization whose 440 public water agencies are responsible for about 90% of the water delivered in California. For more information, visit http://www.acwanet.com.

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