My neighbors' sprinklers turned on automatically today to water their green lawn and blossoming spring flowers. It looked a bit odd in the rain, but not uncommon. The spray landed on the saturated ground, then ran into the gutter and down the storm drain to the sea. Gallons of clean water that could be used for drinking were gone, and so was energy. There's a good chance the water running down the storm drain at my neighbors' house this rainy day was pumped over mountains into Southern California, percolated into the ground, and pumped up a well. Meanwhile, as I write, rainwater that could percolate into the ground to recharge local aquifers instead runs off miles of pavement and rushes to the ocean in concrete-lined storm sewers. Today, water requires 19 percent of California's electricity, 32 percent of its natural gas, and 88 million gallons of diesel fuel, according to California Energy Commission data. Despite this year's rains, water scientists worry that the West may be entering a period of prolonged drought not seen for 500 years that could last for decades. That's why energy agencies and companies must coordinate closely with water agencies to save both energy and water. State officials focused on the need to better harmonize use of the two resources during this week's joint agency meeting (see story at page 5). However, with looming shortages of both resources on the horizon, California policy makers must act fast to fit the puzzle pieces to create a coherent picture. Energy is not used only to pump water. A whole lot more electricity and natural gas is consumed to put water to use. To make white socks white in the wash, for instance, water must be heated. After the detergent has done its job, there's a good chance the wastewater is pumped over hills to a sewage plant. There, it is treated in an energy-intensive operation. At every turn, the water that farmers, businesses, and residents take for granted requires energy to supply, convey, treat, distribute, consume, and clean up for discharge at the end of the pipe. Much of California is dry land landscaped to make it look like an English garden. No wonder sprinklers run more on peak hot days to keep vegetation wet, just as air conditioners rumble louder to keep people dry. Transporting water long distances into the state's mountain-ringed southern megalopolis requires 8,900 kWh of energy per million gallons. That is 59 times as much as the 150 kWh per million gallons needed to convey water in Northern California. But the days of the English garden may be numbered in Southern California. Tightening energy supplies and higher prices are increasing the cost of supplying water, forcing water agencies to call on people to conserve. Landscaping needs so much sprinkling in hot inland areas that the Eastern Municipal Water District in Riverside County can't get enough water or energy to maintain water pressure during summer. Local aquifers in its area are falling and becoming brackish, requiring more water imports that are increasingly hard to come by. That water must be pumped over the mountains and then moved around in an area within Southern California Edison territory. Edison's inland service area suffers from tight electricity supplies and sometimes voluntary curtailments on the hottest days of summer, just when water demand reaches its highest levels. As the staccato of a steady rain beats on my roof while my neighbor's sprinklers run, I think about the opportunity emerging to head off a dual energy-water crisis in the Golden State, particularly in Southern California. As in most environmental dilemmas, it comes down to technology, money, lifestyle, and engineering. Technology - This solution is favored by the engineers who dominate the world of water and energy. However, others think of it as intrusive and a potential threat to liberty. Electric utilities, particularly Edison, have successfully shaved their peak through remote control of air conditioners. When demand for power soars, Edison sends a radio signal to devices placed on the air conditioners of customers who have signed up for the program to turn them off. Now, the San Diego County Water Authority is doing the same thing with sprinklers. The authority is providing incentives for customers to install smart devices on sprinkler systems that can control watering according to broadcasts of weather information. Watering systems can be turned off when it rains or delayed to evening on hot days when water and energy use soar. Money - As my pastor reminds the faithful on As my pastor reminds the faithful on Sunday, it all costs money. Water agencies like to brag about their conservation programs, but they pale compared to energy utility conservation and efficiency program budgets. For instance, take the San Diego County Water Authority, which serves the same territory as San Diego Gas & Electric. The authority has a conservation budget of $1.7 million a year, about 56 cents for each of the 3 million people it serves. Contrast that with SDG&E, which will spend $257.5 million over the next three years on energy efficiency, an average of about $26 a year per person it serves. Clearly, conserving both resources will mean spending more money on water conservation, reuse, and local watershed restoration. But as with efficient washing machines, the money would be well spent. Lifestyle - Anybody who's looked at model homes Anybody who's looked at model homes in the suburbs of California knows that they come landscaped with lawns. So do old houses. With half or more of the urban water used for "irrigation" in Southern California, it may be time to replace lawns with native vegetation, at least in part. So-called xeriscaping could cut outdoor water use in Southern California urban areas by up to 75 percent, according to the experience of the Water Conservation Garden at Cuyamaca College in San Diego County. The garden is a joint project of local water agencies there. It features native vegetation as a counterpoint to typical landscaping - lawns, tulips, English ivy, and the like - which is fully responsible for 60 percent of the water used in San Diego County. Engineering - The energy used transporting water could be cut by capturing local rain in the south for beneficial use instead of letting it roll away to the ocean, carrying oil and litter with it. Paved driveways, sidewalks, and side streets could give way to pervious surfaces of paving stones with dirt between them. Sure, drivers would have to slow down a bit, but the new materials would allow water to soak down into the water table. High-tech cisterns could collect runoff from roofs and store it for use in sprinkler systems on dry days, though people would have to find space for them in their backyards. Now, let's put the pieces together. As lawmakers wrangle over upcoming infrastructure bonds, state energy and water officials should be fighting for language that will emphasize funding for projects that optimize the use of both water and energy. The California Public Utilities Commission should coordinate expenditures on efficiency programs in both areas. Water agencies should take a cue from electric utilities and increase their water conservation budgets, even if it means adding a few dollars a head to the monthly bills. At about $40 per month for water where I live, billed every two months, I would hardly notice the increase, even on a rainy day.