09/11/2013 10:52 am ET Updated Nov 11, 2013

Water-energy-air Nexus

Orange County Coastkeeper's focus is water. We educate, advocate, and research in areas surrounding water quality, water supply, and water conservation. We do not often stray from our expertise in water. But, what many people do not realize is our work with water conservation has multiple benefits in other areas of the environment.

When you turn on your tap, it takes energy to extract that water from the source, treat the water to safe drinking standards and move that water to your home. According to a recent study by the Pacific Institute, water-related energy use consumes nineteen percent of the state's electricity.

Southern California Edison (SCE) partnered with Coastkeeper to create a high-performance landscape, or SmartScape, at their Villa Park substation in the City of Orange. The partnership and project provided many benefits for water, energy and air. The landscape features drought-tolerant plant design and cutting-edge technology that conserves water, reduces carbon emissions, mitigates stormwater runoff, and increases soil carbon sequestration. View the SmartScape project final report for all our findings.

The Coastkeeper Garden is another example of the positive environmental impacts of high-performance landscapes, and is a testament to the innovation needed to address conservation across the board. SCE and the South Coast Air Quality Management District (SCAQMD) have provided energy saving and healthy air quality tips below. Read, learn and share!

Ways You Can Conserve Energy and Save Money On Hot Days

"Saving water is just as important as saving electricity. But few know about the direct connection between saving both. One of the best ways to save energy is to use water more efficiently. When you save water, you're helping your water and wastewater providers to save energy and save money, too. On the hottest afternoons, everyone can help prevent blackouts by minimizing energy and water use."

When the weather heats up, your energy usage tends to increase and so does the demand on the grid. Minimize the impact of the hot, summer season on your monthly bill and the electric grid by conserving energy where possible, especially during the peak demand hours of 12 p.m. to 6 p.m.

Southern California Edison's (SCE), job is to safely provide its customers with reliable electricity 24 hours a day, seven days a week. To help maintain grid reliability and help its customers save money on their electricity bill, SCE offers money-saving solutions to encourage energy conservation, including incentives, rebates, tips and solutions. These programs also help the environment. After all, the cleanest kilowatt of electricity is the one that is never used.

According to Southern California Edison:

Everyday Tips for Conserving Electricity at Home

  • "Give your appliances the afternoon off. Use your dishwasher, clothes washer and dryer, and other appliances after 6 p.m.
  • At night, when it is practical to do so, use electric fans and open windows instead of A/C.
  • Set your thermostats no lower than 78 degrees.
  • Turn off lights, appliances and equipment when you're not using them.
  • Close drapes and blinds to keep out direct sunlight during hot periods.
  • Avoid using evaporative coolers or humidifiers at the same time an A/C is running.
  • Operate your swimming pool equipment and energy-intensive appliances only during early morning and evening hours.
  • Limit the opening and reopening of refrigerators.
  • Keep your home cooler when cooking by grilling outdoors or using the microwave."

Air Quality Tips from SCAQMD

The quality of the air we breathe in our daily lives depends on the combined efforts of individuals, businesses and government, each doing our part to prevent and control unhealthful emissions. A lot of air pollution and greenhouse gases are linked to actions that each of us carry out every day, including transportation to work and errands -- and how we use water and electricity. In managing our valuable resources of air, water, and energy, using one resource impacts the other two -- so we need to keep in mind how these three assets intersect.

Even though Southern California has the strongest air pollution controls in the nation, the best way to fight dirty air is to stop it before it begins -- including our smart use of water and power to support clean air. Each of us, every day, can support healthful air and meet the realities of climate change by keeping this three-way nexus in mind. Here are some examples:

  • Over their lifetime, tools such as programmable thermostats and high-efficiency home appliances with the ENERGY STAR label can lower your monthly energy use while also reducing smog-forming emissions from power generation.
  • When you conserve water and energy you also help clean up smog and strengthen our economy. To handle population and business growth, California will need expanded energy and water resources. Saved kilowatts and saved gallons allow us to further tap existing supplies of power and water -- emissions-free!
  • Planting a tree can be a 'triple win' for your home, with benefits for energy efficiency, clean air, and smart water use. Well-planned and maintained shade trees can reduce your need for air conditioning, filter unhealthful airborne particles, and store rainwater in leaves, bark, and roots.

Water Conservation Tips from Orange County Coastkeeper

Inside the home:
  • Do not let water run while brushing your teeth or shaving.
  • Install a low-flow showerhead, toilets or aerators on faucets.
  • Wash only full loads of clothing or dishes.
  • Take shorter showers -- 5 minutes instead of 10 minutes saves 12.5 gallons of water using a low-flow showerhead, and 25 gallons with a standard 5 gallon per minute showerhead.

Outside the home:

  • Do not hose off your driveway, sweep instead
  • Water your lawn in the coolest part of the day (early morning is best) to prevent loss from evaporation
  • Convert your landscaping to utilize California Friendly plants
  • Apply mulch around your plants, it helps keep moisture in the soil
  • Install drip irrigation
  • Check sprinkler systems to adjust sprinklers so only your lawn is watered and not the sidewalk

Keep these tips in mind while you try and stay cool!