The Water Footprint of California’s Energy System, 1990–2012

Published: March 2015

Authors: Julian Fulton, Heather Cooley, and Peter Gleick

Pages: 18



Originally published in the journal Environmental Science and Technology, this article evaluates the amount of water consumed to meet California’s energy needs, referred to as the “water footprint” of energy. Examining how this water footprint changed between 1990 and 2012, the authors find the amount of water consumed substantially increased over recent decades without utilizing more of the state’s water resources, by relying more heavily on water resources from outside the state.

The report demonstrates that while efforts to mitigate climate change in California have been successful in reducing greenhouse gases, these policies may have shifted burdens from energy to water. It concludes that more integrated analyses and planning of water and energy systems are needed to ensure that climate adaptation and mitigation strategies do not work at cross purposes.