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Addressing Climate Change
Climate change is a monumental challenge to the reliability of Southern California’s water supplies. Every watershed the region has depended on, from the Colorado River to the Sierra Nevada, to those that feed our own groundwater basins, is becoming less reliable. Metropolitan has long recognized this threat, and we’ve been preparing for more than two decades through our Integrated Water Resource Plan. We’ve invested in local supplies, developed new storage, and increased our system’s flexibility to take advantage of water when it’s available from our diverse sources. We’ve also taken big steps to minimize the effects of climate change by reducing our greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions — a commitment we’re furthering through our Climate Action Plan.
Through a highly collaborative process, Metropolitan has adopted a Climate Action Plan detailing how we will strengthen our commitment to environmental sustainability, increase the resiliency of operations and provide a pathway to achieve our ultimate goal of carbon neutrality. Read the final Climate Action Plan.
As we face unprecedented and challenging times of historic dry conditions and shortage declarations for our imported water supplies, Metropolitan is committed to ensure that all portions of our service area have a high level of reliability.
Our board has pledged to identify and implement measures to ensure that these demands are met with considerations to system improvements, local water supply development, new storage and programs to increase conservation. Read our regional outlook on addressing these concerns.
A Challenge at Every Source
Climate change is expected to increase average temperatures across the western United States. In the Colorado River Basin, that means decreased runoff and lower flows as less snow is coupled with more demand from trees and plants. In the Sierra Nevada, precipitation will increasingly fall as rain in a few large storms, rather than snow. Sierra snowpack — long a critical storage tool in California’s water management as it holds water high in the mountains until peak summer demand — is expected to decrease by up to 65 percent by the end of the century. And locally, climate change threatens groundwater basins with saltwater intrusion and less natural replenishment.
Building Climate Resilience
Metropolitan is adapting to these new weather patterns with smart planning, key investments in diverse supplies and storage, and critical partnerships across the region.
We’ve developed a long-term climate adaption strategy through our Integrated Water Resource Plan. Through the scenario planning process, we’re identifying opportunities for climate resilience through resource development, demand management and other regional policies.
We’ve increased our storage by more than 13 times since 1990; and we’ve built a large conveyance pipeline that allow us to quickly move water into that storage. With snowpack dwindling, these investments provide a valuable opportunity to capture water in wet years and save it for dry ones.
We’ve made our system more flexible. This allows us to easily deliver water from our Colorado River supplies when our state supplies are in drought, and vice versa.
We’ve invested more than $500 million in recycled water projects, a climate change-proof supply. Our Pure Water Southern California Program could become the largest advanced water treatment plant in the world.
We’ve invested $824 million in conservation programs, helping reduce per capita potable water consumption in Southern California by about 40 percent since 1990.
We’re helping advance the Delta Conveyance Project, a modernized water system that would allow the state to capture more water in big storms – expected to become more common with climate change – and move it where it is needed, with fewer ecological impacts.
Climate Action Plan: Reaching Carbon Neutrality
Metropolitan isn’t just adapting to climate change as it comes, we’re also taking important steps to keep it from worsening. We’ve joined state and local leaders to help minimize the effects of climate change by committing to reduce GHG emissions.
Metropolitan's Climate Action Plan establishes a feasible pathway to achieve the state's target of 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2030 and Metropolitan's goal of carbon neutrality by 2045.
What is the Climate Action Plan?
The Climate Action Plan includes an inventory of Metropolitan’s historic and current GHG emissions, as well as a comprehensive forecast of future projected emissions. The data is then used to identify a feasible GHG reduction target and GHG reduction measures that Metropolitan can implement to achieve its goal. The adopted Climate Action Plan serves as a long-term planning document that will guide policy and planning decisions on operations, water resources, capital investments, and conservation and resource programs. Member and local agencies can use this the document to consider local policies and programs. It also allows Metropolitan to streamline the environmental review process and mitigate GHG impacts for future capital projects under the California Environmental Quality Act.
Other key benefits:
“The impacts on our water supplies will change the way we provide our services and operate our water system. The Climate Action Plan will ensure we are part of the solution to prevent further stresses to our climate.”
—Adel Hagekhalil, Metropolitan General Manager
Metropolitan’s Carbon Budget
It takes a lot of energy to move water. That energy is used to transport water from our imported water sources located hundreds of miles away, and to treat and distribute water throughout our service area. Metropolitan’s greenhouse gas emissions fluctuate from year to year depending on the amount of water pumped from the Colorado River. Because pumping operations vary depending on need and availability each year, emissions in one year may not be representative of Metropolitan’s overall progress toward meeting its GHG emissions reduction targets. To account for this, Metropolitan is tracking its emissions over time using a carbon budget.
To meet Metropolitan’s carbon neutrality goals, we set a GHG emissions budget, which is measured in metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent (MT CO2e). This metric measures the amount of carbon dioxide and other gases that are being released into the atmosphere and contributing to climate change. As Metropolitan releases GHG emissions from our operations, those emissions deplete the carbon budget. In 2021, our carbon budget was 9 million MTCO2e, but we emitted about 5.3 million MTCO2e, demonstrating that our efforts to curb emissions are paying off.
Several years of drought conditions severely impacted deliveries of water to Metropolitan from the State Water Project, which carries water from Northern California to contractors, including Metropolitan. To offset the loss of SWP supplies, Metropolitan has had to pull from storage and increase the amount of water pumped through its Colorado River Aqueduct system.
By implementing some of the GHG reduction measures identified in the Climate Action Plan, Metropolitan was able to significantly lower emissions in comparison to previous years with similar pumping conditions and stayed well below its carbon budget overall. Some of the ways Metropolitan was able to do this included purchasing lower-carbon and carbon-free electricity, where available, developing carbon-free energy generation, improving energy efficiency, continuing water conservation efforts and developing local water supplies.
Track Our Progress
Metropolitan has partnered with CAPDashTM, a web-based tool that allows the public to view our progress toward our GHG emission reduction targets. Data is categorized by various strategies Metropolitan is employing, from operational fuel use to employee commuting, and is visualized in interactive charts and graphics that facilitate greater transparency.
On the Path to Sustainability
Our Climate Action Plan will help get us to our goal of carbon neutrality, but we’ve been on the path for decades. Our environmental awareness began with our founding in 1928, when our planners and engineers designed the Colorado River Aqueduct to deliver water primarily by gravity across 242 miles of California desert to the state’s south coastal plain. Those same planners recognized the need for a reliable supply of power, investing in construction of Hoover Dam and Parker Dam, which together supply more than half of the energy needed today to power the CRA pumps with clean, carbon-free energy.
That same forward-thinking ingenuity imbues Metropolitan’s continued investments in clean energy and energy-efficient design to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions.
Adopting New Energy Technologies
Metropolitan upgrades its infrastructure to ensure energy efficiency. The district invests in renewable energy resources, including buying and generating hydroelectric power to help meet much of its electricity needs. In addition to using power generated at Parker and Hoover Dams, Metropolitan has built 15 in-stream hydroelectric plants throughout our distribution system with a total capacity of about 130 megawatts. Metropolitan has also installed 5 ½ megawatts of photovoltaic solar power at its facilities and will soon add battery energy storage to store green energy when power rates are low and discharge that energy when rates are higher.
Supporting Green Transportation
Metropolitan has high-fuel-efficiency and hybrid-electric vehicles in its fleet. Offices, including the downtown Los Angeles headquarters building, are strategically located near public transportation hubs. Employees have access to electric vehicle charging stations and employee rideshare programs.
Metropolitan recently kicked off a Zero-Emission Vehicle (ZEV) Task Force to assist in the transition to a ZEV fleet and will begin the infrastructure design phase to support ZEV Technology early in 2023.
Carbon Sequestration, Capture & Storage Opportunities
Carbon sequestration and carbon capture and storage projects could provide Metropolitan with opportunities to substantially reduce GHG emissions reductions and will likely play a critical role in achieving and maintaining carbon neutrality. Carbon sequestration generally refers to natural processes like the removal of CO2 from the atmosphere during plant growth or avoided soil carbon loss, while carbon capture and storage refers to technologies that take CO2 or other GHG emissions out of the atmosphere and store them in deep underground geologic formations. Several carbon sequestration/carbon capture and storage opportunities are being investigated, researched and evaluated. Metropolitan will continue to track these opportunities as they progress.
Documents & Resources
GHG Emission Reports
Supporting the Climate Action Plan
Moving large quantities of water requires using large amounts of energy. Metropolitan meets its energy demands through its investments in hydroelectric and solar power and the purchase of more than 2,000 GWh of electricity from the regional power grid. The opportunities to manage energy use and conserve water translate into opportunities with both environmental and economic benefits. Metropolitan has developed an Energy Sustainability Plan that supports Metropolitan’s Climate Action Plan. The Energy Sustainability Plan includes a framework of sustainable actions focused on energy cost containment, reliability, affordability, conservation and adaptation.
How To Get Involved
Visit this site for opportunities to join the conversation. Metropolitan plans to connect with the community during the Climate Action Plan process to share information and insights with interested individuals and organizations.