Clarifying and Quantifying Current and Near-Term Groundwater Pumping Energy Use and Costs in California to Improve Energy and Water Systems Reliability

Understanding the relationship between groundwater pumping and energy demand.

Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory


Berkeley, CA

Recipient Location


Senate District


Assembly District



Amount Spent



Project Status

Project Result

This project was completed in 2019. The researchers found that, due to a warming climate, after 2050 there would be a significant increase in groundwater pumping and associated electricity use. Some regions in California will experience a significant increase in groundwater use, such as a 42 percent increase in the Sacramento area by 2050, while other areas will have smaller increases. The researchers also conducted a survey of municipal and agricultural groundwater users to identify barriers to reducing energy used for groundwater pumping. The identified barriers include high initial capital investment, the availability of other more cost-effective operational measures, and the administrative and time intensity burden of incentive programs. The final report for this project has been submitted.

The Issue

The current lack of empirical research aimed at characterizing the relationship between energy use and groundwater pumping prevents accurate resource planning. Previous studies show that the water sector represents at least 7.7 percent of statewide electricity needs. The percentage of energy used for groundwater pumping is unknown. Similarly, the social barriers to decreasing pumping related energy use are poorly understood, as are options for overcoming those barriers.

Project Innovation

The project quantified current statewide energy use and costs attributable to groundwater pumping and developed near-term projections of energy use and statewide costs. The projections factored in groundwater demand, groundwater levels, climate change scenarios, energy prices, and obstacles to implementing energy-efficient pumping and groundwater conservation measures. By expanding knowledge of the relationship between groundwater pumping and energy use, the project enhanced the ability of the State of California and irrigation and drinking water districts to coordinate water and energy resources planning. In addition, the project provided key insights on how to improve groundwater use and pumping efficiency.

Project Benefits

This study quantified current and near-term statewide energy use and costs due to groundwater pumping. Previous estimates of energy use for groundwater pumping likely underestimated the amount of energy used because of a lack of information on actual groundwater use. Due to recent regulatory changes, the availability of information on groundwater use has increased significantly. This information, combined with high resolution modeling of hydrologic and climate change effects allowed researchers to produce more accurate estimates of current and future energy used for groundwater pumping. Benefits from this study enabled entities, such as investor owned utilities, water agencies, and others, to increase the efficiency of the energy used in the water sector, inform demand side management strategies, and decrease greenhouse gas emissions.

Environmental & Public Health

Environmental Sustainability

The study informed conservation efforts to reduce groundwater use, which also reduces energy demand and intensity.

Key Project Members

Project Member

Helcio Blum

Energy/Environmental Policy Research Scientist
Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory



Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory


The Pacific Institute


California Polytechnic State University


Match Partners


Michael Hanneman


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