Water-Urban Land Use: Neglected Link in the Climate Change Triadic Relationship among Water-Energy-Land Use in California

Monday, 15 December 2014
Hilda Joan Blanco, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, CA, United States
Efforts to reduce the magnitude of climate change due to GHG emissions has focused attention on how different sectors contribute to GHG emitting energy use. California has been a leader in climate change mitigation policy across the nation with its passage of the Global Warming Act of 2006, with a major focus on the energy sector. Directly linked to climate change, the Energy-Travel-Urban Land Use Nexus in California is well recognized and the density/compactness of land use is subject of 2008 state policy (Sustainable Communities and Climate Protection Act, SB 375). The Water-Energy Nexus is also well-recognized, given that about 19% of electricity use in State is water-related, and water scarcity in the State has led to increasing policy guidelines, e.g., the 2009 water conservation plan, with a target of reducing urban water use by 20% by 2020. Since 40-50% of urban water in California is consumed by outdoor water use, the character of urban land use, its compactness and density, have important effects on water use and resulting energy impacts. However, direct policy attention to the water-urban land use nexus has focused primarily on water-conserving outdoor watering devices, and landscapes. Direct policy on the character of development itself has yet to emerge, and adequate recognition of the interrelationships among energy, water use and the character of urban development has yet to occur. This paper reviews the research and policies on the water-urban land use link, as well as on the larger triadic relation. It identifies research questions, and policy issues that this neglected link poses to California and the nation.