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Sonoma County Water Agency: Carbon Free by 2015

May 1, 2015 by Adrienne Tatman, SSU student and The Climate Center Intern

Recently I attended a Sonoma County Water Agency’s Energy and Sustainability tour and learned how the Agency achieved carbon free water.  The Agency pumps and distributes water to more than 600,000 Sonoma and Marin customers, and also runs several sanitation plants.

Before the tour I had not given much thought to the amount of energy required for these services, nor to the carbon emissions they produce. I learned that the Agency is one of the largest power users in Sonoma County.

So how did the Water Agency achieve carbon free water? The first measure the tour highlighted was its fleet of electric vehicles. According to the Agency, it has nearly 30 hybrid, plug-in hybrid and electric vehicles, which comprise almost 20% of the Water Agency’s fleet.  


Cordell Stillman, Deputy Chief Engineer (the tall guy), leads the author and others on the Water Agency tour.

The Water Agency also uses three photovoltaic systems to lower its carbon emissions, accounting for an average annual output of 3,290,000 kWh. The Agency is working on a fourth system that will be installed on wastewater treatment ponds which, at 12.5 megawatts, will be the largest floating photovoltaic system in the United States.

Another energy saving measure highlighted on the tour was the geothermal pond loop system that heats and cools one of its buildings.

Through conservation, efficiency, and renewable energy sources, the Water Agency has achieved its goal of carbon free water by 2015.

Overall, what I think is most exciting is that the Water Agency is committed to using renewable energy sources. Through innovation the Sonoma County Water Agency is leading the way for other water agencies to make the commitment to carbon free water.

For more information about the Water Agency’s Energy and Sustainability projects, visit: http://www.scwa.ca.gov/energy-sustainability-projects/