San Diego Business Journal

— Our region is known for its ambitious leadership in climate change, renewable energy, and clean technologies, but increasingly it is apparent that we must broaden our view of energy to help us minimize pollution, create new jobs, and build a more climate resilient region. It is time to take a deeper look at how water shapes our energy profile, while continuing to pursue energy efficiency and renewable energy initiatives in the region.

With continued drought, pressures from climate change, and possible water restrictions on the horizon, opportunities to translate our region’s leadership in the energy realm to the water sector abound. Many of our forward thinking municipal leaders are putting policies in place to do just that, and turning to private sector technology companies to help develop solutions and create clean-tech jobs at the same time.

According to the California Energy Commission, water accounts for 20 percent of California’s total electricity usage. Since much of the San Diego region’s water is imported from long distances and is pumped over major elevations such as the Tehachapi Mountains, we need to be particularly thoughtful about the “water-energy-climate” nexus.

The more energy used in pumping, treating, distributing, heating, or cooling water, the higher the costs to business, the community, and the environment. A new study released by University of California, Davis found that water conservation measures taken in California over a nine-month period (June 2015 to February 2016) resulted in 922,543 megawatt-hours of energy savings — enough to power 135,000 homes for a year.

Holistic Approach

The data make a strong business case for addressing energy and water issues holistically by using water more efficiently and reusing it whenever possible.

Many private sector technology companies in our region are playing a lead role in advancing water solutions that save energy and money. For example, Qualcomm Technologies is incorporating smart water networks at its own San Diego headquarters as well as at landmark locations like Petco Park.

In partnership with Cleantech San Diego and The Climate Collaborative, The San Diego Foundation recently awarded Smart Cities grants to support public-private partnerships that catalyze the adoption of new or existing technologies and help achieve measurable water and energy savings in our region.

Monitoring Data

One of the funded projects will support the City of Solana Beach to field trial technologies from two San Diego startup companies, HydroSmart Technologies and SenseOps, that will provide real-time data about the effectiveness of water conservation behavior and rebate programs.

The other project being supported through the Smart Cities grant program allows the San Diego County Regional Airport Authority to attain real-time data on condensate from air-conditioning equipment. The rooftop HVAC equipment produces significant condensate water that can be captured and reused for activities such as power washing and irrigation on the airport campus. The San Diego International Airport estimates that only 20 percent of its water activities require potable water, which presents a tremendous opportunity to advance water reuse across airport operations.

With the data and analyses from the airport project, other large building owners and operators will be able to evaluate the potential to self-generate nonpotable water for usage at their facilities.

Collaboration at Work

This kind of innovation and collaboration is what the San Diego region is known for, and we are proud to be playing a part in encouraging businesses and public entities to work together to save energy and water, and grow new jobs at the same time.

As drought conditions in the West persist and water agencies scramble to avoid stringent mandatory cuts to water allocations from the Colorado River, we urge more businesses, cities, and community organizations to join us in enhancing San Diego’s leadership in building climate resilience, addressing our water challenges, and fostering innovation and supporting jobs in our clean-tech cluster.

Kathlyn Mead is the President and CEO of The San Diego Foundation. Jason Anderson is President and CEO of Cleantech San Diego. Dave Roberts is the CEO and founder of SenseOps Inc.