Optimizing Use of Non-traditional Waters, Drought Proofing the Electricity System and Improving Snowpack Prediction

Water and Energy Solutions for California

The Regents of the University of California, on behalf of the Los Angeles Campus


Los Angeles, CA

Recipient Location


Senate District


Assembly District



Amount Spent



Project Status

Project Result

Draft reports for each of the subtasks are under development.

1) Market characterization of non-traditional waters: finalizing assessment of sources of nontraditional waters including identification of water systems affected by drought, and providing a list of treatment technologies and associated energy costs.

2) Recycled water scenarios for direct potable reuse (DPR): Results show that switching to DPR could increase local treatment energy by a factor of 3 but using DPR to offset more energy intensive water supplies will result in a net savings.

3) Characterization of snowpack and snowmelt: results are ongoing and information sharing continues; the real-time snow-water-equivalent diagnostic models for the hydropower plants was completed.

4) High-volume water recover desalination: completed testing bench-scale membrane performance.

The Issue

This project addresses three critical needs for the State of California: (1) Non-traditional waters are available in abundant quantities, but they cannot be used for most industrial, agricultural and municipal applications without the development of new approaches to manage contaminants; (2) Impacts of water conservation on power plants reliant on water for operation; and (3) Stream flow forecasts to date are considered inaccurate and pose a risk of misstating California water supply. Research is needed to illuminate which method or combination of methods will substantially improve forecasting skills and can be used in practical applications.

Project Innovation

This project funds research to reduce the stress on current water infrastructure in California. Research includes: (1) development of high-volume water recovery desalination processes for non-traditional waters, (2) characterizing the potential for non-traditional water use in California, (3) development of recycled water scenarios for use electricity generators and direct potable reuse(DPR) to offset other water sources, and (4) improving the characterization of California's snowpack.

Project Goals

Reduce stress on California's water infrastructure.

Project Benefits

This project develops flexible, integrated approaches that can reduce energy use and costs associated with the use of non-traditional waters, and minimize the volume of wastewater produced from their treatment. In addition, guidance to be provided on the "best-fit" technologies for California based on geographic area, energy resources and water quality available. Additional research will provide reliability benefits including improving water-forecasting scenarios pertaining to recycled water for electricity generation and snowpack forecasting for hydropower operations.

Lower Costs


Implementation of project recommendations in the study could provide lower energy costs associated with the treatment of non-traditional waters.

Environmental & Public Health

Environmental Sustainability

By reducing energy costs associated with treatment of non-traditional water, the project could increase use of this currently wasted resource, especially near the generation source. This could reduce greenhouse gas emissions asso

Greater Reliability


This project could provide greater reliability by improving forecasting methods used to predict water resource availability for electricity generation.

Key Project Members

Project Member

Steve Margulis

Vice Chair Dept. of Civil and Env. Engineering



The Regents of the University of California, Berkeley Campus

Contact the Team