Executive Summary for October 21st

In this weekly roundup, we analyze key water developments in California including a legal battle over tribal groundwater rights. We also look at a water agency embracing energy storage and a new data collection tool to measure water.

Published on Oct. 21, 2016 Read time Approx. 2 minutes

Water Agency Embraces Energy Storage

On Thursday the Inland Empire Utilities Agency (IEUA) in Southern California launched a project with Advanced Microgrid Solutions to use energy storage to integrate renewables, reduce demand on the grid and save money.

The project includes 3.65MW of energy storage in batteries at six IEUA water recycling plants and pump stations. It is expected to save IEUA between 5 and 10 percent of its current energy costs annually and will help to better integrate the agency’s existing renewable energy sources including 3.5MW of solar, 1MW of wind and 2.8MW from a biofuel cell.

“We remain proud of our investments in energy efficiency, renewable generation and sustainable water management practices,” said IEUA board president Terry Catlin. “Energy storage is the key to maximizing the value of those investments, allowing us to use our resources more efficiently, reduce costs for our customers and participate in building a more resilient electric grid for the whole region.”

Water Deeply recently reported on a similar partnership with AMS and Irvine Ranch Water District. AMS CEO and co-founder Susan Kennedy said more water agencies may also soon be embracing the technology.

“The water industry so uniquely needs energy storage,” she told Water Deeply, because its facilities need lots of power and can’t be easily turned off during peak pricing times. “It’s wasteful and expensive for water agencies to navigate electricity tariffs.”

Tribe Fights for Groundwater Rights

A legal fight resumed this week that could have far-reaching water rights implications as the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians battle for groundwater access in the Coachella Valley.

The tribe is facing off against the Coachella Valley Water District and the Desert Water Agency, which are hoping the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals overturns a 2015 ruling that favored the tribe.

“If the water districts lose their appeal, a court would eventually determine how much groundwater the tribe is entitled to, and Agua Caliente leaders would gain greater influence in decisions about how the desert aquifer is managed,” writes Ian James at the Desert Sun.

Sensors Help Manage Scarce Water Resources

A new network of sensors in California’s Sierra Nevada mountains will provide crucial data for water managers struggling to predict the amount and timing of meltwater because of climate change.

SierraNet, a joint project out of the University of California, Merced, and the University of California, Berkeley, is a network of sensors that will be distributed across the Sierra Nevada and can record snow depth, humidity, soil and air temperature, soil moisture and solar radiation.

The project, unfortunately, can’t produce more water for the state, but it will provide data that will be crucial for managing water and hydroelectricity. Placer County Water Agency and Pacific Gas and Electric have already expressed interest.

“We’ve operated our water systems by the seat of our pants for the past century,” Roger Bales, a civil engineer at U.C. Merced, told New Scientist. “We’ve operated with very little information, because there was plenty of water and not that many people.”

More people, more drought and increasing impacts from climate change require new tools for management.

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