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Recent Press Democrat reports document that peak water demand in our region exceeds current delivery capability. This underscores the importance of everyone becoming more involved in water conservation.

There is one other compelling reason for water conservation that has not been discussed. Saving water also means significantly reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

First, some simple but dramatic facts about water and energy use and greenhouse gas:

* Twenty percent of all energy consumed in California is used moving water from one place to another.

* Each household annually uses approximately 110,000 gallons of water (about one-third of an acre foot).

* The energy to supply and dispose of one acre foot of water takes about 775 kilowatt-hours. (A kilowatt hour is equal to using a 1,000-watt appliance for one hour.)

* About one pound of carbon dioxide is produced for each killowatt-hour.

There are simple solutions available to all of us that would significantly reduce water use and greenhouse gas emissions at the same time without crimping our lifestyles. Households can save money, water, energy and reduce greenhouse gas levels in three relatively easy steps.

First, install 1.5 gallon-per-minute showerheads; second, install one gallon or less per flush toilets; and third, install high efficiency tier 3, front-loading washing machines. Installing these water efficient appliances could reduce a single household?s water use by 25,000 gallons per year, plummeting energy use by 1,600 kilowatt-hours, thus reducing 553 pounds of greenhouse gas - a savings of almost 25 percent over current household averages. For every acre-foot of water that is delivered by the Sonoma County Water Agency to cities and districts, approximately 700 pounds of carbon dioxide is released into our atmosphere. This includes the energy needed to pump, treat and transport water to our homes and also for the collection, treatment and disposal of our wastewater.

The clock is ticking. In 2005, all nine cities, the county and the water agency adopted the Sonoma County Climate Protection Campaign, committing to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 25 percent below 1990 levels by 2015. We now have fewer that six years to meet that commitment.

Some of these improvements are relatively inexpensive. Others are less so.

Residents can get efficient showerheads for free at any local water supplier or at the Sonoma County Water Agency. The Sonoma County Energy Independence Program offers low-interest loans to pay for these energy saving appliances and other household energy improvements through the county.

More can and must be done. Cities and water districts can?t rest on their laurels. Local governments, rather than clamoring for more and more water, should institute smart public programs to help their customers directly install water efficient appliances. They must put their money where there mouths are and provide rebate incentives and/or direct installation options. This is much like the free water smart home audits being performed by several cities which have been wildly successful in educating homeowners about how to find and repair leaks or the clunkers for cash federal program that has gone through the roof.

As our elected officials strategize on how to recover from the current recession and the devastation to local budgets, they should realize that by helping their customers install water efficient appliances, they are protecting their future supply of water, energy and our planet ? all of which are priceless. They are also making good on their greenhouse gas reduction commitments made in 2005.

As they say, strike while the iron is hot ? and that iron is steaming hot right now with a drought, recession and global warming.

Six years will fly by. <

The cities and water districts can make a huge difference by offering incentives now so that every household can take advantage of this opportunity to save water while reducing their carbon footprint.

Mike Reilly is a former Sonoma County Supervisor and director of the Water Agency.