Water Efficiency and Energy Efficiency in the Central Valley

November of 2014 was Election Day and while this was not a presidential election, there were plenty of issues to vote on and of course, an energy efficiency initiative was on the ballot. For example, we have the water bond, which passed with 66.8% of voters in favor. California has been in a serious drought that's so severe that there were reports earlier this year that East Porterville that water needed to be rationed. Residence only received a 3 week supply of water per person. So it would be more than expected that there be a water reform issue on the ballot. This brings us to Proposition 1 which would improve water infrastructure in California, including watershed protection.

What does the water bond and water itself have to do with energy efficiency? Due to the severity of the drought, more water has to be pumped from underground sources to provide for farmers, businesses and residences. Theses pumps cannot function without electricity and since Fresno has not seen decent rain in what seems like forever, the pumps are working harder and using more energy. Of course this means more taxpayer dollars being spent to pay for the energy used so water can be accessed. Along with working harder for water, the infrastructure of water is, according to the San Francisco Examiner, over 100 years old. So saying that there are leaking pipes across the state of California would be more of a fact than a theory. Currently energy efficiency is not waters strongest suite.

Why should anyone care? Right next to electricity and probably smartphones, mankind is extremely dependent on water; furthermore, if all aspects of clean energy (water, solar, biomass, and wind) were utilized to the fullest of their extent, water could not play a significant role in reducing our dependency on fossil fuels. With apparent climate change developing across the U.S., we would need complete access to clean energy resources to maintain our way of living. What’s equally important is the Central Valley, one of the nation’s largest produce providers must irrigate to grow crops for consumption and this past year was one of the worst droughts California has experienced which left farmers in a difficult spot.

What can we do?

We have already passed Proposition 1 which is a great step. But everyone from your local government to your preschool can help conserve water. Visalia took a step by only allowing 12 watering days a year and the City of Fresno has already mandated that from December 1st thru March 1st, there is no outdoor watering as well as no watering between 6AM and 7PM. However, I think for California to truly conserve water, not only would mandates need to come down on a statewide level but homeowners/renters can do their part and have a critical impact on our water supply. For example, I recently learned how much a waste of water and energy bottled water is – apparently more expensive than gas per gallon. You can visit Treehugger to see what ways you can conserve water and energy.
.   .   .Fingers crossed that passing the water bond will have a positive impact on water supply.

Oh No! Falling Gas Prices

So my wallet told me that in the month of November, gas prices had gone down.

Awesome. Fantastic. Insert Happy/Smiley face emoji here.

This fall gas prices hit their lowest since the Great Recession in 2008 and 2009. On December 3, 2014, Costco gas was reported at $2.71 a gallon ( and personally, my aging Honda civic is now filling up at approximately $35 a tank. Now to the casual onlooker, this is good news – more money in our pockets, motivation to travel and do holiday shopping with a little looser budget all sound great, right?

But wait a sec.   .   .

One must take in the bad in with the good.

According to U.S. News and World Report consumers are beginning to purchase vehicles that were well known prior to the recession as “gas-guzzlers”. You remember, Hummers, Lincoln Navigators and Cadillac Escalades, right? Well those brand items are making a big comeback. To add insult to injury, besides sucking your wallet dry for gas, the emissions of these vehicles are not good for the rest of us. A Cadillac Escalade emits around 9.6 tons per year[1] of CO2 into the atmosphere and it stays there for, according to the Environmental Protection Agency, a few years to thousands of years.[2]  9.6 tons is just one Escalade driving about 15,000 miles a year. As trends have shown in the past the cost of gas will go right back up. Then what? The consumer puts their car in the garage? What about the emissions, they stay in the atmosphere.

As a history of major, I’ve read and experienced enough of the ups, downs, lefts and rights of the federal, state and local governments. Ultimately I believe the power is held by the taxpayer. People really do need to think about the environment – especially in the Central Valley. I absolutely believe that climate change is not a myth. The drought throughout the state and the extreme weather conditions in the Eastern United States prove that our environment is changing and that it is completely up to the people to correct it.

From my perspective we need to start with the gas guzzlers being deeply regulated. Car manufacturers have been putting great technology into their cars, so why not lower an SUV’s emissions to be comparable to that of a Honda Civic? Since the automobile industry isn’t going anywhere, I’m thinking there are plenty of engineers who can make this a reality, it’s just the manufacturers have to make it a top priority.

This is also just a small piece of the pie.  Decreasing our gas dependency, realizing climate change and reducing SUV usage are just a few of the contributing factors in the recovering and preserving of our environment.

[1] “Compare Side-By-Side”, U.S. Department of Energy: Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy, accessed December 5, 2014,
[2] “Overview of Greenhouse Gases”, Environmental Protection Agency, accessed December 4, 2014,

Do You Need a Energy Tune Up?

Currently I live in a house with 3 housemates. The house was built in the early 90s and is about 1,800+ square feet. One of the housemates owns the house and has the responsibility of bills, bills, bills and taxes (yuck). What came into discussion late this summer was the wretched PG&E bills, which some might say is as hard a pill to swallow as taxes. It is safe to say that in the city of Fresno, residents are most dependent on their air conditioners around the June through August summer months. Our bill was no exception as we experienced an average of $278 a month with August reaching as high as $320. I sat with the homeowner in awe as to wonder what on earth we were doing that the bill was so high. After all, the house is empty 5 days a week between 8:30 am and 5:00 pm and we felt that was a significant amount of time to not be using any electricity that the bill shouldn't put us into traumatic shock.
After asking the homeowners several questions about the house: water heater, air conditioning, fridge, dishwasher, washer and dryer, windows, insulation and anything I could think of, I finally contacted my local Central Valley Energy Tune up ( This FREE service provides education to homeowners about energy savings opportunities in their homes through a variety of free energy efficiency service offerings.[1] I requested that we have the comprehensive “Whole-House Home Energy Survey” option which would include their inspection of the entire house including air conditioning system and attic. While the homeowners have not received their detailed reports, the “energy inspectors” did have input that provided some insight into how they could save on their energy bill.

First, the house faces south-southwest, so that means the 2 bedrooms that face the front of the house have direct experience with the Fresno summer sun from about 3:00 pm – to 6:00 pm where the average temperature this summer is in triple degrees side of the thermometer. So we have two rooms that have “sauna-like” temperatures that the house has to work harder to cool down. The proposed solutions: a) keep the door open so hot air doesn't stick; b) get low emissivity windows.

The second opportunity was definitely a shock and considering that I personally am not a homeowner, I find it interesting to discover that there lazy contractors did half of the job with the insulation. (See photo below)

Just randomly, the in the front part of the house, where the sun faces, the thermal imager registers that there’s no insulation. Hmm. Homeowners had no idea.While I am all for energy efficiency and insulation is one method to get there, I am baffled at the randomness and sloppiness of the contractors/installers themselves. Why would they all of a sudden just not finish insulating the house?  We’ll never know.

So here’s the lessons learned. First, Central Valley Home Energy Tune Up is FREE. You really can’t lose having an inspector review your home and receive a detailed report providing you with what’s going on with your home. Second, contractors suck.

[1] “Home Energy Tune-Up”, accessed October 13, 2014,